Articles on Tibet by Indian Intellectuals
- Tibetan Uprising: China Responses (by: Prof.Srikanth Kondapali, Chairman of Centre for East Asian Studies, JNU)
- The Cy of Freedom: Bankruptcy of China's Tibet Policy (by B.G. Verghese, March 27,2008)
- Why India Must Stand Up to China (by Sumit Ganguly March 18, 2008)
- Tibet Uprising and its implication for National Security (by G.Parthasarathy, Former High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mar 20,2008)
- From Taslima to Tibet, India Proves Chicken (by Jug Suraiya Mar 21,2008)
- When China Dominates (by S.P.Seth Mar 22,2008)
Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli
Chairman of Centre for East Asian Studies, SIS, JNU
â€œLooking at Tibet, I sometimes feel ashamed to be a Hanâ€¦. In a civilized world in the 21st Century, when something incredible happens in a certain area but many people around us (including Tibetans) yell out about a crackdown and mass killing, should we seriously reflect on ourselves: Why?â€
-Blog post by a student of Central Universities of Nationalities, Beijing at China Digital Times April 7, 2008
â€œI strongly demand that our Peopleâ€™s Armed Police warriors cast off their mental burdens, and at the first opportunity take resolute measures to knock the bravado out of these scoundrels, remove the evil from the people, and preserve a stable social environment in Tibet.â€
-A BBS participantâ€™s posting on â€œStrong Nation Forumâ€ bulletin board on Chinese official newspaper Peopleâ€™s Daily website
The above two quotes from the popular Chinese blog sites indicate to the mainstream Chinese responses to the Tibetan uprising in March- April 2008. To recall, on the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese rule, nearly 100 Tibetan youth marched from Tsuklakhang monastery at Dharamshala in a protest march to â€œgo homeâ€ to Tibet. Simultaneously, nearly 1,000 Tibetans in Nepal demonstrated in Kathmandu. However, a few months ago plans to organize such march were made by five Tibetan youth organizations in January 2008 with the intention to demonstrate against the Olympics torch that is expected to traverse nearly 20 cities in five continents. Interestingly, Tibetans wish to conduct their own Tibetan Olympics in May 15-25, 2008 at Dharmashala with the torch passing from Ancient Olympia on March 10 (nearly two weeks before the official Chinese Olympics torch start) through ten cities and five continents. Although these marches were aborted by the Indian police, the Tibetan wild fire spread to other areas of the world.
In Tibet itself 300 monks reportedly marched from outside Lhasa to the city, even though the latter were protesting against the arrest of monks by the Chinese authorities after the Dalai Lama was awarded a golden medal by the United States Congress in October 2007. Interestingly, one of the main demands of the Tibetans in Tibet is not related to Olympics but to oppose the Chinese governmentâ€™s plan to relocate nearly 3 million Han Chinese and Muslims in Lhasa and the deteriorating unemployment situation for the Tibetans in Tibet. Rising unemployment among the Tibetans, despite the Chinese government showcasing Tibet as a favourable business destination, is also mentioned frequently as one of the main grievances of those who have participated in the Tibetan uprising in Tibet and traditional areas of Tibet, viz., Amdo and Kham areas now integrated with
Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in 1965. Initial official estimates of the Tibetan uprising mentioned about a few hundred demonstrators, created unrest in Lhasa on March 14. However, a fortnight after the riots broke out in Tibet/Greater Tibet, the estimates of
people involved swelled into thousands and the geographical spread extensive in nature. It is not only in Lhasa and other towns of Tibet but also in most of the Tibetan populated areas of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, the Tibetan uprising spread like wildfire.
In Lhasa, where the initial protests were reported in the â€œMarch 14 (so-called â€œ3.14â€) incidentâ€ several hundred demonstrators participated in the uprising. According to Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet regional government, protestors set fire to more than 300 locations, including homes and 214 shops, while smashing and burning 56 vehicles. The initial estimates of losses amounted to nearly $14 million affecting 469
businesses out of 5,600 in main roads of Lhasa alone. The losses do not include tourism (with Tibet attracting 4 million visitors in 2007 of which 365,000 were foreign tourists) and other sectors of the economy. By April 2nd week, an official re-estimate of losses put the figure at about $40 million in Lhasa uprising. Again, according to Qiangba on April 11, the number of those detained in the last one month swelled to 953 people, of whom 403 were formally arrested, while the Tibetan government-in-exile put the figure of those killed in Chinese firings alone at more than 150.
In Gannan Prefecture of Gansu province in the northwest of Tibet, official estimates on April 8 put the figure of those detained at 4,332 and those surrendered at 2,204 (of which were 519 monks) , indicating to the mass nature of the uprising rather than a â€œhandfulâ€ of people. According to the acting head of Gannan, Ma Shengwu, the Tibetan demonstrators in Gannan â€œcaused direct economic losses of 230 million yuan, destroyed and burned 4,279 houses of various types, destroyed and burned 74 vehicles, destroyed 622 power supplying facilities, 590 water supplying facilities, and 278 heat supplying facilities.â€
In Maqu County in the same Gannan prefecture, to cite another example, which has a population of 46,000 people, 261 private businesses were burnt on the March 16 uprising. Incidentally, the Police Headquarter Command Post in the county was the first target of the demonstrators. The total economic losses were estimated at about $15 million, which was about the county governmentâ€™s half-year fiscal income in 2006.
At Hezuo County in the same prefecture, hundreds of horse-riding demonstrators went a step further- they removed the Chinese flag and hoisted Tibetan flag on local government offices. The videos of this incident at Hezuo were widely viewed across the world, although blocked in the Chinese websites and other media.
In another area, where Tibetan land was integrated in 1965 with adjoining Sichuan Province, Tibetan unrest
has been reported on a relatively extensive scale in the number of incidents and the number of people participating as well as geographical dispersion. Aba County in this province witnessed fierce struggles between Tibetans and Chinese officials and troops. The map on Tibetan protests in Tibet from www.savetibet.org provides a graphic description of the extent of the spread of the movement in China.
The March 14 uprising in Lhasa and other places has alarmed China. The Chinese authorities passed orders for March 17 as the deadline for the protestors to surrender. While several thousands of arrests were reportedly made by the authorities, no martial law was imposed (as was in the 1989 period). However, the ground situation, according to eye witness accounts, is much the same as the imposition of martial law. This is difficult to corroborate as China had clamped down on any objective reporting from Tibet. The Chinese authorities at the central, regional and local levels have followed a comprehensive strategy to counter the Tibetan uprising. It included pitching all the resources at the hands of the state- including the political, media, military and paramilitary assets.
Press coverage was restricted, specifically to the foreign correspondents. While official publicity machinery responded to the Tibetan uprising in rather harsh terms by dishing out the governmentâ€™s perspective that these protests are all â€œorchestrated and masterminded by the Dalai cliqueâ€ and â€œTibet independent forcesâ€, no major or neutral observers were allowed to visit Tibet or adjoining areas of unrest. This is in violation of the spirit of regulations issued in 2007 that gave overseas journalists the right to interview all consenting organisations and individuals without government approval. Indeed, two dozen journalists were turned away from covering events in Tibet. For instance, Mek Yinting, general secretary of the Hong Kong Journalistsâ€™Association, was forced to leave Tibet, as with other nearly 10 Hong Kong journalists. There was, however, one select group of foreign diplomatsâ€™ delegation which was shepherded into Lhasa. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, indeed, on March 17, demanded access to cover Tibet, but this was, predictably, not forthcoming. The Club issued a statement, nevertheless, which stated: â€œThe interference in reporting activities is not in keeping with the temporary Olympic period reporting regulations, and is especially not in keeping with the
International communityâ€™s expectations of an Olympic host nation.â€ To recall, during SARS crisis in 2003, the Chinese government, likewise, went into a huddle and under-reported the extent of the spread of the SARS in different regions of the country. This led to enormous losses for the Chinese people as well as tourism and aviation sectors.
Apart from the above handicap in objectively analyzing the actual situation in Tibet, the official Chinese propaganda nationally and at the regional Tibet/Greater Tibet levels indicated to the widespread influence of the Tibetan uprising. A critical examination and in-between-lines-reading of the Chinese official reports, news bulletins, radio broadcasts, TV relays, reports about official meetings and deployment of troops, etc indicate that while Lhasa and other adjoining regions witnessed widespread unrest among Tibetans, within a gap of nearly four days, the wildfire spread to the interior of Tibet and Greater Tibet. In the latter region, the movement further intensified and appears to be hardly with any extensive links to the movement outside in the world.
Although the entire party, state, military and paramilitary has been pressed by China to overcome Tibetan resistance, a few party officials and institutions stand out specifically in Chinaâ€™s response during these events. Also, five decades of Chinese rule in Tibet contributed to the emergence of pro-Chinese Communist Party section within the Tibetans. This section has been co-opted into the decision-making process in Tibet, although high-level posts are still are in the hands of Han-ethnic persons. These sections of Tibetan cadres are also pitched to be in the forefront of resistance against the Dalai Lama and Tibetans living abroad. These sections of the Tibetans are much to lose (as with the Han leaders) if Tibetan conflagration goes beyond Chinaâ€™s hand. Mutual symbiosis between the two then is the emerging glue and acts as a powerful force at the disposal of the Chinese government. Thus, when the Chinese government stated, in the aftermath of the March 14th incident, that it would wage a â€œpeopleâ€™s warâ€ against the independent forces in Tibet, the â€œpeopleâ€ here are those who are co-opted by the Chinese system in Tibet.
At the head of the leadership is Hu Jintao who served as Party secretary in Tibet in late 1980s and whose rule here triggered the 1989 Tibetan uprising. Hu made very few public statements on this occasion, however, although he is reported to be concerned about the current uprising. On April 12, Hu, in a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, stated: â€œOur conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem. It is a problem of either preserving national unity or splitting the motherland.â€
Another high-ranking standing committee member of the Politburo of the Communist Party, Zhou Yongkang, who is also the internal security minister, said on April 10: â€œAt present our goal is to ensure the security of hosting of the Beijing Olympics. We must deeply recognise the serious situation we are facing in upholding social stability. We must strike hard at every kind of criminal and illegal activity, deepen work on infiltrating
and implementing order in chaotic areas and on prominent issues of public order. Stability is an important task and is our number one responsibility. â€œ
Regional responses of the Chinese leadership, not surprisingly, are similar to the above central leadershipâ€™s views. Wang Lequan, a politburo member and in-charge of Xinjiang and broadly ethnic issues, has been in news of late. Since China codified its â€œ3 evilsâ€ [viz., opposing separatism, extremism and splittism- the last one reserved generally for the Tibetan activists], Wangâ€™s role increased, although he was replaced as party secretary of Xinjiang. Wang told the China Central Broadcasting on March 10, â€œNo matter what nationality, no matter who it is, wreckers, separatists and terrorists will be smashed by us. Thereâ€™s no doubt about that.â€ After the conclusion of the First Session of the 11th National Peopleâ€™s Congress on 18 March, Wang Lequan stated: â€œthe struggle for or against national division is a long-term, complex, and arduous struggle and calls for efforts to maintain a situation of high pressure toward the â€˜Three Forces.â€™â€
Chinese leadership in Tibet
Zhang Qingli, a Han national from Shandong Province and the Party Secretary in Tibet, is considered to be the most powerful person in the region, with experience of handling Xinjiang till 2005. Like Wang Lequan, Zhang belonged to the Communist Youth League, a faction in the party headed by the current Chinese president Hu Jintao who also served as Tibet party Secretary in the 1980s when in 1989 Lhasa riots broke out. On 15 March, a day after the Lhasa uprising, Zhang criticised the protests as part of an â€œelaborately plannedâ€ plot by the â€œDalai [Lama] cliqueâ€ to â€œseparate the motherland and sabotage the Beijing Olympic Gamesâ€. On the same day, the Tibet party committee held an emergency (enlarged) standing committee meeting to â€œmake overall arrangements to crack down on the violent crime activities and puncture the arrogance of the hostile forces.â€
These formulations were echoed by none less than the Prime Minister of China two days later. Premier Wen Jiabao dubbed the unrest a â€œmeticulously plannedâ€ and â€œpremeditatedâ€ incident â€œincited by the Dalai cliqueâ€ to â€œsabotage the Olympic Gamesâ€. On March 19, after four days of widespread Tibetan protests in Lhasa and other places, Zhang in an editorial in the official Tibet Daily said:
We are currently in an intensely bloody and fiery struggle with the Dalai Lama clique, a life or death struggle with the enemyâ€¦. As long as we... remain of one heart, turn the masses into a walled city and work together to attack the enemy, [and] then we can safeguard social stability and achieve a full victory in this intense battle against separatism. The Dalai Lama is a wolf wrapped in a robe, a monster with human face and animalâ€™s heart.
As a part of the propaganda war, in the same paper, appeared an article on March 26 by a commentator by the title â€œThe Dalai: Sinner of a Thousand Generations Who Destroys the Unity Among Ethnic Groupsâ€, denouncing â€œthe Dalai Cliqueâ€ for the current uprising in Tibet. This propaganda war reminds one of the similar tactics that the Chinese media uses to vilify those the party cannot stomach. For instance, in the 1990s, similar statements were used by the Chinese press to criticise Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten for his efforts to introduce liberal democratic institutions in the former British colony.
During and in the aftermath of the Tibetan uprising, Zhang is heading the 110 command post to curb Tibetan unrest. This is not surprising as previous party secretaries of Tibet as well controlled the military and paramilitary forces against Tibetans before. For instance, former party chief of Tibet Wu Jinghua who died of illness on October 19 last year also served as the political commissar and Party chief of the Tibet Military District. He belonged to the ethnic group of Yi, is a native of Mianning County of Sichuan Province.
A series of meetings and discussions after the March 14th uprising, as mentioned in the official bulletins, indicate to the concerted measures of the Chinese leadership in Tibet in overcoming the resistance of Tibetans. To what extent these have led to scuttling the Tibetan uprising is not clear though. Nevertheless, on March 18, the Tibet party committee met to convey â€œthe spirit of the relevant central instructions and make schedules for the regionâ€™s work of maintaining stabilityâ€. As rescue efforts were initiated, on March 19, the Tibet Party Committee convened an enlarged meeting with all concerned cadres and officials â€œto conduct overall planning on maintaining stabilityâ€. One result of this meeting was to hold a teleconference with concerned agencies in Tibet urging them to launch a â€œpeopleâ€™s war against national division and for stabilityâ€. Another â€œenlarged standing committeeâ€ meeting took place on March 21- this time â€œto convey the spirit of the Central Authoritiesâ€™ relevant instructions, listen to the reports on social stability and the restoration of normal order, and make arrangements for the work of safeguarding stabilityâ€. Participants include Zhang Qingli, Si Ta, deputy head of the Central United Front Work Department, Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of Public Security, Huo Yi, deputy commander of Peopleâ€™s Armed Police Force (PAPF), Lu Dengming, deputy commander of the Chengdu Military Region, and other leaders. On the same day, Zhang met Qiangba Puncog, deputy secretary of the regional party committee and chairman of the regional government, political commissar Yu Linxiang and Huo Yi. On April 4 another standing committee meeting took place with Zhang, Qiangba, Legqog and others. This meeting considered the situation â€œstill very grim and called for continued vigilance against the Dalai cliqueâ€. On April 8, Zhang met Chen Weiming, director of Public Security Ministryâ€™s Frontier Guard Administrative Bureau, in Lhasa to further control the regionâ€™s peripheries, specifically as news spread about possible disruption of
the march of Olympics torch in India and the Chinese plans to take the flame to the Mount Everest. Previously, in October 2007, Chinese officials, concerned about the protests of Tibetans and foreigners near the Mount Everest in the last one year and their potential challenge to the Olympics torch in May 2008, conveyed to the mountaineers that the need to follow new regulations aimed at curb such protests. These new regulations include limiting the numbers of different nationalities in each team; procure travel documents in advance, etc.
Zhang and others initiated a policy of sending work teams regularly to different parts of Tibet and other affected regions, as is the usual practice in the history of the Chinese communist party. In addition, in order to further divide the Tibetan community, leaders of Tibetan origin were also pitched against â€œthe Dalai clique.â€ Work teams of party and security forces were dispatched to the affected areas in Tibet and other regions. From March 20-23, the political commissar of the PAPF Yu Linxiang visited PAPF troops in Tibet and instructed them to follow Party orders. Simultaneously, State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu led a central work team to inspect Tibet from 23 to 24 March. During March 20-26, another team composed of Qinghai provincial leaders, including provincial party secretary Qiang Wei, deputy secretary Luo Huining, and Governor Song Xiuyan, visited troops seeking local logistics support to the battling troops. Sichuan party standing committee member Zhong Mian inspected Garze Tibetan prefecture to take measures to counter the uprising. During March 28-31, Tibet party standing committee member Basang Dunzhu inspected work related to stability and border management in Kangmar,Yadong, and Gamba counties in Xigaze Prefecture of Tibet. He called for â€œresolute measuresâ€ to curb the uprising in these areas. On April 3, Basang was quoted by the local press as attending a Yadong County border control meeting and urging greater efforts to oppose the Dalai Lama. From March 31 to April 1, Hao Peng, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Peopleâ€™s Government, conducted inspection tour on border management work in Yadong and Gangba. Another
party leader Jin Shubo, visited Nagchu region to inspect work on upholding stability. Likewise, another party leader Wu Yingjie inspected Lhokha prefecture where he instructed on â€œstability maintenance workâ€. Jin Shubo was sent to inspect Nagchu area for the same purpose, while Baima Caiwang, vice chairman of the Tibet government, visited PAPF and police units in Chamdo. Another standing committee member of Tibet
party WuYingjie visited Cona County in Shannan prefecture, where he urged â€œconcerted efforts between the party, government, military and police against the Dalai cliqueâ€. Another affected province Gansu, likewise, took measures to curb the Tibetan uprising. On March 24, Gansu provincial party secretary Lu Hao and Governor Xu Shousheng met in Lanzhou with Li Qingyin, deputy commissar of PAPF to curb unrest in Gannan. The Gansu province party secretary Lu Hao suggested that while stability has resumed â€œmaintaining social stability is still an arduous task. The fight against the Dalai clique is long term.â€
The party secretary of Sichuan, Liu Qibao, said on March 16, in the backdrop of the Aba county uprising, that there is a â€œneed to oppose the splittist and sabotage activities carried out by the Dalai Lama clique and smash the plots of the â€œTibet Independenceâ€ splittist forcesâ€. The party committee here activated on March 24 â€œthe pre-scheme of the province for emergency control of sudden public incidents, form the Aba stability maintenance and emergency control frontline headquarters, and adopt measures to stabilize the situationâ€.
Pitching Tibetans against Tibetans
On March 20, the party Organization Department of Tibet issued an emergency circular, calling on grassroots party organizations and cadres to critique the Dalai Lama. Taking a cue from this the most pungent all criticism against the Dalai Lama was forthcoming from Tibetan party cadres. Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet regional government. Speaking from Beijing at a press meet, Qiangba argued that the protests were â€œorganizedâ€and â€œpremeditatedâ€ by the Dalai Lama. Qiangba was seen in most media coverage as a spokesperson critiquing the Tibetan uprising.
Another veteran cadre, Ragdi, former vice-chairman of the National Peopleâ€™s Congress Standing Committee, at a meeting of the Counselling Committee on Development of the Tibet Autonomous Region at Beijing said that the Chinese â€œshould be fully aware of the long-term, tough and complicated struggle against it. With the support from across the nation, the Tibet regional government is capable of maintaining the social stability and legal order to protect the fundamental interests of people of all ethnic groups in Tibetâ€. He, however, argued that â€œA riot would have occurred in Tibet sooner or later, if not in Lhasa.â€
The Lhasa Mayor Doje Cezhug is a Tibetan. He is also director of the Standing Committee of the Tibetan Regional Peopleâ€™s Congress. He was seen, in the aftermath of the protests in the capital city, involved in disbursing relief measures to those whose properties were destroyed. Critiquing the Dalai Lama, he said on March 17: â€œShould the Dalai separatists group not spoil [the stability in Tibet], Tibet would be in its best period of development in history. Nowadays, Tibetan people have been living a modern life while enjoying the development of traditional Tibetan culture.â€
Roping in â€œpatrioticâ€ religious personages
To counter the Dalai Lama and puncture his argument on religious and cultural autonomy, religious leaders within Tibet were also mobilized in this contest over legitimacy in Tibet. The statements elicited from the religious leaders within Tibet are, in general, in sync with the official Chinese discourse. The United Front Work Department in the last several decades in China was tasked to work with religious and other personalities to counter those that the party opposes. For instance, the Chinese-appointed 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, said that the violence in Lhasa ran counter to Buddhist tenets. Lhadar Ngawang Daindzin, vice president of the Tibet Autonomous Region branch of the Buddhist Association of China said on March 17 that last five decades of development in Tibet is â€œearth-shakingâ€ that the Tibetans enjoy freedom and democracy, with significant improvement in the lives of Tibetans. He called for punishing those who are involved in breaking law and order in Tibet. Another monk, Tubdian Targyai, at Jangtse Dratsang at the Gandan Monastery, suggested that the Tibetan monasteries and other religious intuitions are protected by the Chinese government, including the re-institution of Geshe Lharampa academic degree examination system. He criticized the â€œdisruptiveâ€ activities of the Dalai Lama and stated that these are not conducive to â€œstability and developmentâ€ of the region. Another monk, Zhikongqiongcang Luosangqiangba critiqued the â€œdestructive activities [which]
were single-handedly orchestrated by the Dalai cliqueâ€. On March 27, the United Front Work Department of Sichuan party held a forum of Buddhist personages on â€œsafeguarding the stability of the areas inhabited by the people of the Zang [Tibetan] nationality in the province to inform the attendees of the stability situation in the areas.â€ Chen Guangzhi, vice chairman of this committee said ont he occasion that the forum attendees should â€œsafeguard the religious order and social stability with concrete actions and make more contributions in safeguarding provinceâ€™s social and political stability and building a well-off society in all-round way.â€ Political education campaign is generally prescribed by the Chinese state for the Buddhist monks to wean them away from the influence of the Dalai Lama. On April 5, for instance, the official Tibet Daily carried Tibet deputy party leader Hao Pengâ€™s views on â€œreinforcing patriotic educationâ€. Hao was cited at Tashilumpo monastery in Xigaze, the seat of the Panchen Lama as â€œGuide the monks so that they continue to foster the tradition of love of religion, love of the country and to hold high the banner of patriotic progress. Especially reinforce education of young monks about the legal system so that they become patriots who love religion and observe discipline and lawâ€. However, this move appeared to have boomeranged as monks joined the protestors in large numbers in Sichuan, Tibet and Qinghai.
Another section which came to the rescue of the Chinese state is those in academics in Tibet â€“although most of them are considered to be party members or aspiring for such positions. Cering Doje, deputy director of the religion research institute of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out the Tibetan rioters â€œseemed to have lost basic humanity, and there was no mercy at allâ€. The head of this institute, Cering Gyaibo said: â€œAt this critical time, we need to cherish ethnic solidarity and muster courage to protect territorial integrity and ethnic harmonyâ€. Basang Wangdu, a council member of the International Society of Tibetology, likewise was critical of the Dalai Lama.
Yet another measure China undertook was to allow outpouring of protests by the Han nationals on the Tibetans. While only a few Tibetan views were allowed to be circulated (and removed quickly) on the popular internet portals such as Sina.com, Muzi.com, etc, Han-nationals diatribe against Tibetans increased. This reminds one of the official patronage and support to similar outburst in the internet against the Japanese bid for UN Security Council membership a few years ago or the anti-US protests in the aftermath of the Chinese Embassy bombing in Belgrade in 1999. On Sina.com alone, for instance, nearly 27,000 anti-Tibetan messages were allowed, while blocking YouTube and others which carried videos of the Tibetan uprising.
We mentioned above how the party apparatus in Tibet and adjoining provinces had worked in tandem to tackle the Tibetan uprising. The units of the PAPF, militia and the military troops were mobilised to bring the situation under control. However, the Tibetan protests are unabated. The Chinese military and para-military today control vast swathes of the Chinese territory, specifically in the backward interior regions where restive ethnic minorities inhabit. This is also true of Tibet. To control protests in Tibet, China has set up a command centre at the Tibet Office in Sichuan at Wuhou District in Chengdu. Reinforcement of troops came from the Chengdu Military Region which reportedly raised the threat levels by shifting to â€œfirst-degree alertâ€ status-indicating to the severity of the situation. Within Chengdu, surveillance has been strengthened with nearly 600 police staff pressed into service to block roads and traffic for searches. Eyewitness accounts in Lhasa after March 14th incident and subsequently indicated that, although denied in official accounts, tanks, armoured personnel carriers (of WMZ 553 type) and troops were deployed in Tibet and other regions where unrest is mounting. According to an eye witness account 40 trucks of soldiers and 36 tanks marched into Lhasa on March 15 alone, while swelling to about 200 military vehicles the next day. Some other accounts indicated to the deployment of nearly two divisions (about 40,000) of troops in Tibet. In addition, the PAPF contingents have been pressed to quell unrest. The PAPF and the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army forces began house-to-house searches in Lhasa and other places to isolate those who have been active in the protests. They reportedly cordoned off main streets and several buses of riot police were parked along the roads. Checking of passersby was mounted by officers, some with sub-machine guns, who patrolled the area on foot or cruised in cars and motorcycles. The three largest monasteries in Lhasa, including Sera and Drepung were surrounded by the troops as well to control the monks.
China had deployed about 180,000 troops in Chengdu Military region and 200,000 troops in Lanzhou Military Region. In addition, PAPF and militia persons are available for the Chinese government to curb Tibetan unrest. There are an estimated 2 Divisions of paramilitary forces (in addition to one regiment) and one independent Division (in addition to 6 independent regiments) of PAPF forces in Tibet. Some estimates put this figure at about 600,000. A series of changes in the last decade indicated to a churning process in the military control of Tibet. Chengdu Military Region has operational jurisdiction over four military districts, viz., Sichuan Province, Tibet, Guizhou and Yunnan regions and six military sub-districts, viz., Lhasa, Ngaou, Nyingqi, Qamdo, Shannan and Xigaze. The Lanzhou Military region in Gansu Province has operational jurisdiction in Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang regions. In the recent past it had conducted several counter-terrorism exercises in the region.
In China, the military and party apparatuses are closely linked for a long time. The military and para-military are represented in the Party congresses. 16th party congress Central Committee members from the military who were replaced at the 17th Party Congress in October 2007 include those from Chengdu and Lanzhou as well. These include Lanzhou Military Region Commander Li Qianyuan and Chengdu Military Region Commander Wang Jianmin, Political Commissar Yang Deqing, and Deputy Commander and concurrently Tibet Military District Commander Meng Jinxi. Retirement age is considered to have contributed to their replacement. The new members of the 17th central committee include Chengdu Military Region Commander Li Shiming and Political Commissar Zhang Haiyang and Lanzhou Military Region Political Commissar Li Changcai. However, most significant, in the backdrop of the campaign against â€œ3 evilsâ€ is the entry into the latest central committee of Tibet Military District Commander Dong Guishan and Xinjiang Military District Political Commissar Tian Xiusi.
Several other changes in the military composition were noticed in Tibet and adjoining areas in the recent period. In a reshuffle in January 2008, the Chengdu Military Region Political Department Deputy Director Tian Yigong was shifted and appointed as Deputy Political Commissar of Guangzhou Military Region, while Guangzhou MR Deputy Chief of Staff Li Zuocheng has been promoted to Deputy Commander of Chengdu Military Region. Maj. Gen. Zhao Zongqi, Commander of Chengdu Military Regionâ€™s subordinate 13th Group Army, has been sent as Chief of Staff of another Military Region, Jinan. Maj. Gen. Zhao Zongqi was born in 1955, and joined the service in 1970. He has served as Chief of Staff of Tibet Military District. In 2004 he was promoted to Commander of the 14th Group Army, stationed in Chongqing. Just last year he was transferred to be Commander of the 13th Group Army in Yunnan. However, for Yang Jigui, commander of a mountain brigade of the Tibet Military District and a deputy of the NPC at Beijing, it was a different story. Yang was among the first batch of all-army â€œexcellent commanding officersâ€ in 2006. He conducted training in the Yarlung Zangpo [upstream of Brahmaputra River] recently.
Changes in the PAPF leadership in Tibet are also significant. In late 2006 PAPF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Huo Yi was transferred to the office of PAPF deputy commander. Major General Wang Jianping, former deputy chief of staff, has been promoted to the office of PAPF chief of staff. Wang served as chief of the Tibet PAPF section in 1996 â€” at the time, the youngest deputy army official in the PAPF. He was promoted to the rank of major general in 1997 and became the youngest major general in the PAPF. Dai Hongsheng, chief of the Sichuan PAPF section, has been appointed deputy PAPF chief of staff.
Units of the military and the PAPF stationed in Tibet have granted 13 ethnic Tibetan officers the rank of major general and lieutenant general. Over the past four decades, hundreds of Tibetans serving in military and PAPF units in Tibet have become leading officers at regiment or higher levels, according to military sources. As mentioned above, a number of Tibetan officers have also become government leaders at the county level and above. Incentives to the Tibetans in the military are one of the ways of keeping the flock intact. For instance, recently, Jiangyong Xirao, a decorated Tibetan battalion deputy commander of the Tibet military district, was praised by the Tibetan authorities for setting a good example as a model soldier and a loyal party member.
Chinaâ€™s response to the Tibetan uprising in the last one month has been harsh and appears to be following the previous policy of â€œstrike hardâ€ to snuff out any dissent for its rule in Tibet and other portions of the country. As indicated by events in Lhasa and other places, this policy is likely to be continued further in the run-up to the Olympics in August and after. However, given the widespread response of the Tibetans within Tibet and outside and the groundswell of support from different governments and civil society groups in the world, the whole issue appears to be a foreign policy failure in the making for China. A majority of the foreign policy establishment of China appears to be now geared towards curbing the negative fallout from the Tibet protests. China did make frantic efforts in reaching out to different â€œallies and friendsâ€ in the aftermath of March 14. However explicit support to Beijing came from only a few countries such as Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, Latvia, Malaysia, Singapore and others, while several countries have expressed reservations on Beijingâ€™s handling of Tibet. If the effort of bidding and conducting Olympics is to showcase Chinaâ€™s rise to the world, popular indictments at the global and Tibetan levels unnerved Beijing. For so long Tibet is considered to be the minimalist foreign policy position for China, while Olympics indicated to its bidding for the global legitimacy for its policies. In the initial official rhetoric, the Chinese government critiqued the Dalai Lama as the one who had â€œorganized, premeditated, masterminded and instigatedâ€ uprising in the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa on March 14. However, after the Tibetan movement spread to other parts of China, specifically in traditional Tibetan areas such as Amdo (Qinghai Province) and Kham (now integrated into Sichuan province), and to other parts of the globe (such as in the protests against the Olympics torch at London, Paris, San Francisco, New Delhi, Tokyo and other places), the official criticism is now directed against Tibet Youth Congress, instead of targeting the Dalai Lama alone. On April 10, for instance, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, carried reports suggesting that Tibet Youth Congress â€œis no different from Al-Qaida, Chechnyan armed terrorists, â€œEast Turkistanâ€™
separatists and any other terrorist organizationâ€. This political line appears to be intensified by the Chinese government in the run-up to the Olympics and after in order to drive a cleavage in the Tibetan community, i.e., pitching TYC against the Dalai Lama, much as china pitted Tibetans against Tibetans within Tibet. China appears to be also changing its tactics in the current imbroglio. Unlike in the 1959 and 1989 uprisings, in the current case, the Chinese leadership appears to be pitching Han-nationals against Tibetans. Packaging the Olympics as a part of the national rejuvenation and glory and any efforts to block such sport events as politicization or even efforts to deny China its due place in the world, the leadership is mobilizing Han nationals against Tibetan â€œsabotageâ€, thus deflecting the global attention on the central Tibetan issue of identity and autonomy. Differences in the Chinese leadership are likely to become more explicit in the coming months in terms of handling the Tibet issue. While Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Li Keqiang are considered to be in league in the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party along with another member Zhou Yongkang the internal security minister in overall-charge, including Tibet, all eyes will be on the rising star of the party Xi Jinping for his views on the subject. Xi, who was named as the vice president of China recently, had indicated during his tenure in Fujian Province that reform and opening up is essential for China and that he is favourably disposed towards commercial contacts. Post Olympics situation is likely to usher in acute debates within the communist party.Although the bottom line of the party is to retain Tibet in China, methods to resolve the perennial Tibetan unrest could intensify internal political debates in the party. As a reflection of the above, internal changes in Tibet have already commenced. Although official rhetoric of China continued to be critical of â€œthe Dalai cliqueâ€ for instigating violence in Lhasa, quietly internal changes commenced in Tibet - indicating to the central government reprisals on Tibetan officials. After nearly a fortnight of the March 14 incident in Lhasa, the Chinese government sacked Danzeng Langjie, director of Tibetâ€™s Ethnic Minority and Religious Affairs Commission. He was replaced by Luosang Jiumei, vice secretary of the Communist Party committee of Lhasa since 2004.
by B.G. Verghese March 27, 2008
RUMBLINGS in Tibet over the high-handedness of the Chinese authorities in paying little heed to popular grievances have spilt over into the streets not merely in Lhasa but even beyond the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region to Kham and Amdo resulting in spirited demonstrations, clashes and several deaths. Troops and armoured vehicles have been called out to subdue unarmed but defiant monks and youths. The protests were timed to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee and seek refuge in India. The causes remain the same: Beijingâ€™s reluctance to concede autonomy and cultural freedom to the Tibetan people despite solemn promises.
The authorities obviously hope to pacify and sanitise Tibet behind a cloak of censorship, keeping away prying yes while silencing dissident voices. Modern technology, however, makes this a difficult task. Moreover,such a policy must, as always, adversely affect the credibility of whatever version Beijing tries to sell the world with the expected ideological gloss about having frustrated the alleged machinations of the Dalai Lama and his henchmen who have long been in league with Imperialist forces to â€œsplitâ€ and undermine a resurgent China.
The Dalai Lama has been straining to bring the Tibet issue to an honourable and just resolution with genuine internal autonomy and guarantees for Tibetan cultural rights in regard to religion, language and the regionâ€™s ecology. He himself has said he would like to retire as an ordinary monk, with governance being left to a leadership responsible to a freely elected assembly, and with external affairs and defence left to Beijing to manage. Despite several rounds of dialogue, the Beijing seems adamant about continuing with a coercive policy of forcing demographic and cultural change as a means of tilting the balance increasingly in its favour. It has thus far regrettably never been able to see the tremendous advantage of changing tack and using Tibet as a bridge rather than as a bastion in the exercise of regional and even global power that reveals unsatiated hegemonistic tendencies.
The Dalai Lama has appealed against resort to violent protest. But the Chinese seem bent on a crackdown that will only add to the bloodshed and bitterness. The bankruptcy of Chinaâ€™s Tibet policy has once again been exposed at the very time that Beijing is readying to showcase its undoubted achievements and prowess to the world on the occasion of the forthcoming Olympic Games. The Games were founded to bring people together to compete in sport and the arts of peace in order to build friendship. But a country at war with itself is not going to be able to sell technology and growth as absolute values. The current unrest clearly disproves oft-repeated official claims that the Tibetans are happy and contented and only a handful of trouble makers are out to disturb the peace.
The Indian Government and people have been restrained in their support of the Tibetan cause even as they host the Dalai Lama and his administration in exile in Dharamsala. But there is no mistaking where the nationâ€™s sympathies lie. Indiaâ€™s ties with Tibet go long back in time and a Tibetan delegation was present at the Asian Relations Conference in March 1947 in Delhi along with representatives of the then Government of China. Delhi abandoned all subsisting extra-territorial rights in Tibet formally in 1954, having accepted Chinese sovereignty over it some years earlier on the basis of declarations of â€œnational regional autonomyâ€ incorporated in the 17-Point Agreement of May 17, 1951 between Tibetan representatives and the new Peopleâ€™s Republic of China.
Beijingâ€™s hope that, at worst, Tibet will submit after the passing of the Dalai Lama and that time is on its side is misplaced. The freedom movement is more likely to become more radicalised and demanding and there are already straws in the wind that suggest that a new Dalai Lama incarnate will be found among â€œfree Tibetan peopleâ€. Indeed, it is China that might well discover that the aspirations unleashed by deregulation and economic growth will increasingly seek a more open and democratic political and cultural dispensation. The faultlines are already there and could deepen and widen quite dramatically.
Intolerance is not only evident in China. In Iran, where the conservatives have again been returned to power in the latest elections, there is legislation on the anvil to amend its penal law to deal with â€œapostasy, heresy and witchcraftâ€ which is aimed at even more stringent persecution of the long-suffering Bahais than hitherto. But why turn to Iran or China or the West, where too multiculturalism and liberal values are under serious threat in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the domestic jurisdictions of the Great Powers that pretentiously set the rules. There has been a marked rise of intolerance in India too against which the Supreme Court has inveighed. Majority and minority communalism are equally dangerous. So is regional chauvinism, the arrogance of power and syndicated crime that largely flourishes, as most recently seen in Goa, because powerful men and interests are behind it.
Sumit Ganguly March 18, 2008
Professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington and an adjunct
fellow of the Pacific Council on International Policy
(Cracking down on its own Tibetan minority is no way for a major
democracy to act.)
Indiaâ€™s response to the harsh Chinese crackdown on legitimate Tibetan protests in Lhasa and elsewhere has been dispiriting. In parliament the seasoned politician and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee could only express distress at the plight of the hapless Tibetans. Worse still, Indian security forces swooped down on nonviolent Tibetan protestors at Dharamsala, the principal refuge of the Tibetan diaspora, and incarcerated
them for 14 days using Indiaâ€™s preventive detention laws, a colonial relic.
India does itself a disservice by not standing up to China over its treatment of Tibet. If India wishes to be considered a great power, it needs to display a greater degree of independence and not kowtow to Beijing. With rapid economic growth, a substantial military establishment and robust political institutions, India should stop behaving in a subservient fashion and forthrightly stand up and defend certain inalienable rights of the Tibetan minority in its midstâ€”rights that should obtain in any humane and democratic state.
New Delhiâ€™s reluctance to challenge China over Tibet goes back to Beijingâ€™s brutal repression of the Khampa revolt 50 years ago, when the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans, fled to India. Although China sharply reproved India for providing refuge to the Dalai Lama, India stood its ground. Shortly thereafter, following a breakdown of negotiations over a disputed border, China attacked and defeated India in October 1962. Even though Indiaâ€™s army has since been modernized and prepared for mountain warfare, the memory of this rout still haunts Indian military planners and policymakers. Thatâ€™s why, when the Chinese army periodically crosses the border, India responds with anodyne criticism. And why India has been willing to publicly and abjectly reassure China that the Tibetan exiles will not be allowed to engage in any meaningful political activity. Appeasement might not be a bad policy if it actually succeeded in keeping Beijing satisfied, but it doesnâ€™t. There is not a shred of evidence that it has ever moderated Chinese behavior. Whenever Tibetan exiles have engaged in minor protests, Beijing has sternly rebuked India for allowing them to engage in political activities. Faced with Beijingâ€™s continued expressions of discontent, New Delhi has rarely missed an opportunity to genuflect before the Middle Kingdom. The Tibetan crackdown is only the latest example.
This humiliating deference undermines Indiaâ€™s national interests as a rising Asian power and corrodes its credentials as a liberal democracy. If China can so easily cow Indian policymakers, then Indiaâ€™s claims to great power status in Asia, let alone beyond, appear utterly hollow. It shows that Indian policymakers have been, to use a term from the cold war era, Finlandizedâ€”constrained by a foreign power. Some policy options cannot even be considered for fear of offending China. India, for example, has had little to say about Chinaâ€™s penetration of much of Burma and its ongoing quest for military bases in that country. India has also exercised great caution in pursuing any significant commercial ties with Taiwan for fear of incurring the wrath of the mainland. What does it say about India as a democracy if the authorities harass law-abiding Tibetans who are only engaging in peaceful protests? Such actions are fundamentally contrary to the principles of a liberal democracy that enshrines the right of public political dissent.
It is all but certain that the heavy hand of the Chinese state will successfully crush the demonstrations that have swept across much of Tibet. China is well aware that the great powers will issue some predictable communiquÃ©s demanding an end to repression and calling for political dialogue. They are most unlikely to bolster these pious sentiments with any viable actions that would prove costly to the regime in Beijing, such as the imposition of sanctions or the boycott of Chinese goods. India has long, albeit fitfully, sought to uphold human rights both at home and abroad. Today, when it has aspirations of regional and global leadership, it needs to demonstrate the self-confidence to condemn Chinaâ€™s repression of its Tibetan minority and to provide comfort to the Tibetan diaspora. Any policy that falls short of these steps amounts to an abetment of Chinaâ€™s abject treatment of a disenfranchised minority. If Indiaâ€™s political leadership wishes to be seen as the exemplars of a major democratic state with global aspirations, at a minimum it should grant the Tibetans the right to peaceful protest. It should also consider deferring the mostly desultory border talks, which have, in any case, moved at a glacial pace.__________________________________________________________________________
Tibet uprising and its implications for
G. PARTHASARATHY March 20, 2008
Former High Commissioner to Pakistan
In September 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed a demilitarised and denuclearised Tibet, while realistically recognising that independence for Tibet is no longer an option and that the most that the people of Tibet can aspire for is genuine autonomy, within a united China, says G. PARTHASARATHY
When the Chinese Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army occupied Tibet in 1950, the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, wrote to Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on November 7, 1950 saying: â€œThe Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intentions. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to install into our Ambassador (academic K. M. Panicker) a false sense of confidence in their so-
called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means.â€
Sardar Patel added: â€œ(Throughout history) the Himalayas have been regarded as an impenetrable barrier for any threat from the North. We had a friendly Tibet which gave us no troubleâ€¦Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side, but also include the important part of Assamâ€¦Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the
western powers, which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national and historical claimsâ€.
The 1959 upspring
Chinaâ€™s guise in concealing â€œracial, national and historic claimsâ€ soon manifested itself after the 1950 occupation of Tibet. The Tibetans were compelled to sign a 17-Point Agreement affirming Chinese Sovereignty over Tibet on May 23, 1951. This agreement contained explicit Chinese assurances that the Central Authorities would not alter the existing political system in Tibet.
The Chinese also pledged that they would not alter the established political status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama, with Tibetan officials continuing to hold office.
Finally, the Chinese pledged to protect the freedom of religious beliefs and the income of monasteries and promote the development of the Tibetan language and culture. The Chinese violated all these assurances and Tibetan anger and frustration resulted in a full-fledged uprising in 1959, which led to the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fleeing to India.
Chinese Sovereignty over Tibet
India also paid a very heavy price for disregarding Sardar Patelâ€™s warnings on Chinese intentions. By 1954, Chinese incursions into Indian Territory began along the UP-Tibet border, just after India signed the infamous Border Trade Agreement between â€œThe Tibet Region of China and India,â€ on April 29, 1954, which conceded Chinese Sovereignty over Tibet.
Chinaâ€™s occupation of Tibet was thus sanctified, without securing any assurance on the border issue from China.
The Agreement also led to the handing over of Indian properties, the withdrawal of Indian military escorts and the handing over of telephone, telegraph and communications equipment and facilities in Tibet, to China.
When Prime Minister Nehru took up the wrong depiction of borders on Chinese maps with the smooth and suave Chou en Lai in October 1954, he was assured that the maps in question â€œwere really reproductions of old â€˜pre-liberationâ€™ maps and that he (Chou) had not time to review themâ€.
Nehru was also assured in 1956 that though Chou found the term â€œMcMahon Lineâ€ repugnant, China would recognise this border with both Burma and India. Chou, however, had no more intention of fulfilling these assurances any more than he had of fulfilling Chinese commitments of May 23, 1951, to the Tibetans.
Genuine autonomy within a united China
The Chinese describe the Dalai Lama to be a â€œsplittist,â€ determined to secede from China. The reality is somewhat different. In September 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed a demilitarised and denuclearised Tibet, while realistically recognising that independence for Tibet is no longer an option and that the most that the people of Tibet can aspire for is genuine autonomy, within a united China. In his address on the 49th Anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10, 2008 the Dalai Lama said: â€œSince 2002, my envoys have conducted six rounds of talks with concerned officials of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China to discuss relevant issues. These discussions have helped to clear away some of their doubts and enabled us to explain our aspirations to them. However, on the fundamental issue there has been no concrete result at all. And during the
past few years, Tibet has witnessed increased repression and brutality. In spite of these unfortunate developments, my stand and determination to pursue the Middle-Way policy and dialogue with the Chinese Government remain unchangedâ€.
Tibet has since witnessed yet another uprising, which has been crushed by the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army of China. China evidently believes that use of brute force and a massive settlement of Han Chinese, reducing Tibetans to a minority in their own homeland, coupled with its status as a permanent member of the Security Council, gives it the right to do as it pleases in Tibet.
While addressing the EU Parliament in November 2003, Indiaâ€™s former Ambassador to Bhutan, Dalip Mehta has alluded to the continuous weakening of Indiaâ€™s position on Tibet. Referring to the assertion in the Joint Declaration signed during Prime Minister Vajpayeeâ€™s visit to China that the â€œTibetan Autonomous Region of China is part of the territory of China, Mehta noted that by referring exclusively to the â€œTibetan Autonomous
Regionâ€, India had further damaged the Tibetan cause, as Amdo and Kham, regarded by Tibetans as part of Tibet, were excluded, and by implication their absorption into neighbouring provinces of China accepted.
Sensing Indiaâ€™s weakness, China has only upped the ante and stepped up its rhetoric that the whole of
Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China, as it has historically been a part of â€œSouth Tibetâ€. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, was deterred from visiting Tawang during his recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, quite evidently because of Chinese â€œsensitivitiesâ€. The Chinese, however, responded with an unprecedented protest on the Prime Ministerâ€™s visit to the State. Sardar Patelâ€™s observations about Chinese ambitions are proving prophetic.
New Delhiâ€™s statement on the recent repression unleashed by China in Tibet is welcome. The Government has forthrightly stated that India was â€œdistressed by reports of the unsettled situation and violence in Lhasa and by the deaths of innocent peopleâ€. The time has come for India to state that while it regards Tibet as an autonomous region of China, it hopes that China will abide by the assurances it gave in the 17-point agreement it signed with representatives of the Dalai Lama on May 23, 1951.
India has to take an independent position on this issue and not be seen as a western catâ€™s paw. American policies on China swing like a pendulum and India has periodically been at the receiving end of Sino-American collusion during the Nixon, Carter and Clinton Presidencies. India will have to learn that the Chinese only respect others when they have national power and display a resoluteness to exercise it in the pursuit of legitimate national interests.
An astute observer of developments in Tibet observed that Tibet is the least autonomous of all of Chinaâ€™s autonomous regions. The international community cannot ignore the elements of racial discrimination involved in the manner in which Han Chinese entities such as Hong Kong are granted extensive autonomy, while Tibetans are reduced to a minority and their traditional institutions dismantled, in their homeland. Moreover, if China can propose a policy of one China, two systems in Han Chinese-dominated entities such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, why can it not offer the Tibetans a similar deal?
From Taslima to Tibet, India proves chicken
Jug Suraiya March 21, 2008
Instead of the peacock, India should adopt the chicken as its national bird. Apart from the fowl being the dish of choice, at least in the northern part of the country, our official response to various situations - ranging from the Taslima Nasreen controversy to the protests in Tibet - can best be described as chicken-hearted
Forced into exile from her native Bangladesh by religious fanatics who didnâ€™t like her feminist writings, Taslima sought sanctuary in Kolkata in whose Bangla milieu she felt creatively comfortable. However, after street riots instigated by local goons disguised as religious zealots caused the Marxist state government to decide that minority-appeasing discretion was the better part of secular valour, the writer was bundled out of the city and
taken first to an undisclosed hideaway in Rajasthan and later to Delhi, where she was kept in virtual isolation.
Made to apologise for her â€˜anti-Islamicâ€™ views, she was warned by no less than the information and broadcasting minister - supposedly the custodian of the fundamental right to freedom of expression as spelt out in the Constitution - that she should not say or do anything that might hurt the religious sensibilities of any group.
(Should the I&B ministry be renamed the ministry of intimidation and browbeating?)
Finally, Taslima has sought sanctuary in distant Scandinavia, saying: â€œA person who couldnâ€™t be scared by fundamentalists has been defeated by cold-blooded state terrorism inflicted by the Indian government. My terrible experience has shattered all my notions about a secular, democratic India.â€
Why did Taslima - yet another personification of freedom of expression â€” have to quit India? Because when push comes to communal shove, for all its professions to the contrary, India is too chicken to stick to its principles of liberalism and democracy and allows mob rule to subvert the rule of law. In the case of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet, Indiaâ€™s official response has been so politically correct, not to mention politically chicken, that it has earned praise from no less than the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao (who might have made special mention of the Indian Left whose non-response might be summed up as â€˜Tibet who?â€™).
Despite Chinaâ€™s continuing claims on Arunachal, and despite its proven nuclear proliferation to Pakistan, New Delhi walks on eggshells where Tibet is concerned and seems vaguely embarrassed by the Dalai Lamaâ€™s presence on Indian soil. Why? Because then, maybe, China will support Indiaâ€™s admission to the UN Security Council. Or at least stop using Pakistan as a foil against us. Or sell us cheap pichkaris for Holi. Or something.
The truth is that we are just too chicken to take on the big demons - Chinese totalitarianism, religious fundamentalism - but make do with assailing minor imps of the perverse. For instance, Fiona Mackeown, mother of the murdered Scarlett Keeling, has been strictured for having left her 15-year-old daughter alone in Goa. What an unnatural, monstrous mother. How unlike the caring, sharing mothers of the suitably named Mother India, where female foeticide and infanticide are as common as the common cold. Or take the case of health minister Ramadoss who is so busy fighting the evils of tobacco and liquor - by putting â€˜goryâ€™ pictures on tobacco products, and banning surrogate liquor ads - that he has no time to address the much larger ills that plague our practically non-existent public health system.
Canâ€™t move mountains? Find convenient molehills, turn them into mountains, and then move them. That seems to be the recipe. Not just for the health minister but for the entire sorry mess which might aptly be called Indian chicken curry.
S.P. Seth March 22, 2008
World may face strife, turbulence
CHINA seems to be everywhere these days. Apart from Japan, which is seeking to counter it with the US alliance, Chinaâ€™s political and economic pre-eminence in Asia-Pacific is now well-established.
True, the US is still the dominant military power regionally and globally. But the Asia-Pacific region is quietly adjusting itself to Chinaâ€™s new and rising status.
China is not only looming large in its Asian neighborhood; it is also establishing its presence in Africa, the Middle-East, Central Asia, South Asia and South America, hunting for resources (oil, gas and raw materials) to fuel its economy, selling its wares, making investments and accumulating political capital.
It has indeed emerged as the United Statesâ€™ biggest foreign lender, buying its treasury bonds and securities with its more than one trillion worth of foreign currency reserves (and rising) amassed, in large part, from the US growing trade deficit.
In other words, it is lending a good part of what it earns from its US exports back to the United States, thus enabling its consumers to continue buying Chinese goods.
China is now in a position to bring down the mighty US dollar by shifting its dollar holdings into other currencies, and create panic in international markets.
In practice, it might not do this for fear of losing heavily on its dollar assets. There is no way it can dispose of its dollar assets quickly enough to escape heavy losses.
Besides, a significant depreciation of the US dollar will affect Chinaâ€™s exports to the US market by making them dearer. But that is another story.
The point is that Chinaâ€™s rise is a great challenge for the world, especially the United States, as the former has ambitions to overtake it as the worldâ€™s only superpower.
With the US mired in Iraq and elsewhere, China has used its time and resources well to expand its political and economic clout, even right into the US backyard in southern America.
One would hope that the US is aware of Chinaâ€™s rearguard action. But being already over-stretched, it is keen to maximise the area of political cooperation on Iran, North Korea and elsewhere.
Washington is, therefore, inclined to overstate the mutuality of interests, and underplay differences and concerns from China. But this situation is unlikely to last as China becomes even more ambitious and the US starts to clearly see the danger.
China believes it can carve out a new role with new strategies to overcome strife and conflict, both internally and externally. In a Foreign Affairs article, Zheng Bijian called these strategies as Chinaâ€™s â€œthree transcendencesâ€.
The first strategy, as he puts it, â€œis to transcend the old model of industrialisation and to advance a new oneâ€¦based on technology, economic efficiency, low consumption of natural resourcesâ€¦low environmental pollution, and the optimal allocation of human resourcesâ€¦â€
Going by the state of Chinaâ€™s environmental degradation, this strategy is apparently not working. The second strategy â€œis to transcend the traditional ways for great powers to emerge (like Germany and Japan in the past) as well as the Cold War mentalityâ€¦.â€
China, on the other hand, â€œwill transcend ideological differences to strive for peace, development and cooperation with all countries of the world.â€
However, if the grab for South China Sea islands (Spratly islands, for instance) is any indication, China is behaving no different from the ways of the old powers (Germany and Japan) by seeking to use a mix of coercive strategies to have its way. The only difference is that China has been relatively successful so far in not having to use military means.
But as its power grows and it faces resistance to its coercive diplomacy, China will be as ruthless in pushing its way (even including the projection and use of power) as the old powers. Which is already happening with Taiwan, with hundreds of Chinese missiles targeted in that direction?
The third strategy, according to Zheng, â€œis to transcend outmoded models of social control and to construct a harmonious socialist society.â€
Again, going by the reports of recurring unrest in different parts of China, the so-called harmonious society is either sheer propaganda or sheer delusion, which is even more disturbing.
Therefore, all these claims that China has somehow found the Holy Grail of peaceful rise and development are fancifulâ€”to say the least. In other words, Chinaâ€™s rise is bound to cause turbulence and strife in the years to come, with the US seeking to hold its position as the reigning superpower.
There is, however, a view that China can be accommodated peacefully in the world order, because the existing system has been kind to it as evidenced by its economic growth and growing political status. Therefore, it will have no reason to subvert or sabotage it.
But with Chinaâ€™s growing ambitions, it is unlikely to be satisfied with incremental benefits accruing to it from a system that was devised by others to maintain and sustain their supremacy. Beijing will like to put its own stamp and to maximise its own goals and ambitions of global supremacy.
In a recent Foreign Affairs article, Professor G. John Ikenberry argues: â€œThe United States cannot thwart Chinaâ€™s rise, but it can help ensure that Chinaâ€™s power is exercised within the rules and institutions that the United States and its (European) partners have crafted over the last centuryâ€¦â€
This is based on two implicit assumptions. First, China will continue to see the existing international order as largely to its advantage. Second, if it doesnâ€™t and seek its radical transformation, it will find the US-European order strong enough, by virtue of its combined power, to deter China from challenging it.
If China manages to remain stable and continues to grow (a big if, considering its multiple problems), it will also have the potential to play power politics with the global system, including between the US and Europe.
The idea that China will play its role within an existing international order crafted and controlled by dominant Western powers seems a bit overdrawn, if not an outright case of wishful thinking.
It would make more sense to treat China realistically as a new power keen to reshape the global order by putting itself in the centre. As its power grows, this is the direction China will take.
T V R Shenoy March 24, 2008
Readers know that I am no fan of the Congress, but let me give credit where credit is due? - New Delhi handled the recent crisis in Myanmar perfectly?
Had the boos and hisses of the â€˜human rightsâ€™ lobby carried the day, where would we have been today? The military would still be ruling the roost in Yangon and the monks would still be silenced; the sole difference would be that India would no longer have access to Myanmarâ€™s natural resources nor to its aid against secessionists in Indiaâ€™s own northeast.
To put it bluntly, a foreign policy run exclusively on â€˜moralityâ€™ is a castle made of cards. The sole â€˜moralityâ€™ I would recognise is to see how, if at all, it benefits India. So, kudos to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee who held the fort for those few troubled weeks.
Sadly, that same sense of realism is missing today. I refer to the ongoing Tibetan crisis and the enforced exile of Taslima Nasreen, events that are linked at some level. Both enshrine the principle of surrendering without a thought of how it might affect India in the long run.
Jawaharlal Nehruâ€™s short-sightedness ensured that Communist China won control of the Tibetan plateau without India making any move to protect its interests. The stupidity of this was recognised even at that early date; Sardar Patel sent a letter warning Nehru that India would pay a price for welcoming a foreign power to its eastern border. (Sadly, the Sardar was already on his deathbed by then; he would pass away within weeks of that missive.)
There is no way at this late date to protect the freedom of Tibet, the great Pandit Nehru certainly ensured that! But does that mean that we have to crush the Tibetans within India to save the Chinese a little embarrassment? Why should Delhi do Beijingâ€™s dirty work?
China is no friend of Indiaâ€™s, it never was and never shall be. We may not be enemies today, we are certainly competitors. China is still in illegal occupation of thousands of square miles of Indian territory, including a small slice of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that was negotiated away by Islamabad.
Why then is the Indian foreign-policy establishment so reluctant to confront reality? Why should the authorities in Delhi send its police to batter Tibetans who want to protest outside the Chinese embassy? Why should Delhi be so uneasy when the issue of Taiwan comes up? Is there any reason why we should be so afraid to â€˜embarrassâ€™ China? If so, can anyone think of a single occasion in living memory when China tried to aid India?
The enforced expulsion of Taslima Nasreen is yet another instance of utterly senseless policy making. What was the issue at stake here, that a bunch of hitherto unknown people should dictate to the Indian government? Has anybody thought of the long-term consequences of this stupidity?
There is a long history to both these instances of cravenness; they stem both from the United Progressive Alliance regimeâ€™s desire to placate the Left and, historically, the legacy of Nehru.
Please remember that Taslima Nasreen was living quietly in Kolkata for about a decade. But a General Election is in the air, the Left Front has been shaken by Nandigram and Singur, and Muslims make up roughly a quarter of the electorate in West Bengal. So should we really be surprised that some obscure elements raked up the issue of her sanctuary so successfully that ten years of peaceful existence were wiped out in mere days?
Let us also grant that this pandering to Muslim extremism is well in keeping with the Nehruvian tradition. It was after all Indiaâ€™s first prime minister who indignantly responded that he was more worried about â€˜Hindu communalismâ€™ when asked to respond to the rising tide of Muslim separatism within ten years of Independence. (How anyone who had lived through Partition could come up with that response is something I still canâ€™t comprehend!)
The Communist Party of India-Marxist has also, traditionally, had a hard time in criticising China. Its leaders wriggle miserably when asked outright if they condemn the Chinese invasion of 1962, so let us not be amazed that they canâ€™t bring themselves to disown Beijingâ€™s brutality in Tibet today.
It is utter bilge to spout away about â€˜non-interferenceâ€™ in the affairs of neighbouring nations. Didnâ€™t the CPIM actively interfere just last year in Nepal, loudly shouting about â€˜atrocitiesâ€™ by the Royal Nepal Army, then procuring a place for its Marxist comrades at the Cabinet table in Kathmandu?
Did India benefit from having a bunch of unreformed Maoists in power in Nepal? Didnâ€™t it increase the danger of Naxalites finding sanctuary across the border?
All these Himalayan idiocies too find echoes in the Nehru era. Nehru swallowed Chinese claims to Tibet without a murmur. Anyone who actually bothers to study history knows that Chinese sovereignty over Tibet was a fiction.
The conceit of Chinese â€˜controlâ€™ over Tibetan affairs dates back to Francis Younghusbandâ€™s (external link) expedition to Lhasa, one of Lord Curzonâ€™s little ideas. When the then Dalai Lama fled before Younghusband reached the capital, an agreement was reached under the imprimatur of the Chinese envoy in Tibetâ€” a bit like the British High Commissioner making decisions concerning India in the Indian prime ministerâ€™s absence.
Angry Tibetans thought so little of the Chinese claims that they tore down the banners announcing the deal from the walls of Lhasa.
Nehru might have claimed that he was bringing a fresh view to Indian foreign policy, in reality he did little more than swallow a few lies concocted by Curzonâ€™s men. (Lies so blatant that even the then British government in London was embarrassed by the whole tawdry affair!)
I have absolutely no problem with Indiaâ€™s conducting business with the generals in Myanmar because that is how Indiaâ€™s interests were best served. But how does India benefit from cracking Tibetan skulls outside the Chinese embassy, and how does it benefit from pandering to extremists by exiling Taslima Nasreen?
A legacy of Nehruvian folly has combined with the electoral needs of the Left Front to unnerve the UPA regime. When will the bill for these acts of cowardice come due? Or donâ€™t the ministers in the Manmohan Singh government care any longer?
Can Tibet Mend China?
To write off the Tibet unrest would be premature. There is much that could follow the uprising in Lhasa.. March 24, 2008 President Hu Jintao needs to read carefully the writing on the wall
Defenceless Tibet is given no chance of forcing mighty China to relent. But David vanquished Goliath. David was armed with a slingshot. What weapon does Tibet have? It is the pressure of international opinion. Do not dismiss it for being inconsequential. It will be difficult for China aspiring to superpower status to ignore it. And the recent events in Lhasa may not signify the end of the story. They may herald a protracted struggle for democracy in China that could spiral far beyond the Tibetan issue. Consider some facts.
Beijing and the Dalai Lama have met and talked six times without reaching agreement. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he wants autonomy. He has not demanded independence. Beijing has repeatedly asserted that the Dalai Lama is trying to split China. It is like a dialogue of the deaf. According to one source, agreement has been elusive because the Dalai Lama seeks ratification of any agreement by an international body. His bitter experience of Chinaâ€™s going back on its word impels him to do this. Beijing will not countenance it.
However, there is now a glimmer of hope.
Beijingâ€™s clampdown on the Tibetan unrest has been inexplicably harsh. Beijingâ€™s man in Tibet, Zhang Quingli, is a rigid hardliner. Under him the state media in Tibet has described the unrest as a â€œlife and death struggleâ€ between China and the Dalai Lamaâ€™s followers. Chinaâ€™s state-controlled media has called the Dalai Lama a â€œwolf in monkâ€™s robesâ€. The reason for such hysteria is that the prestige of President Hu Jintao is involved. He was the author of Chinaâ€™s hard-line Tibet policy.That policy is not succeeding. But its continuation is considered necessary in order to protect President Huâ€™s reputation.
That may explain why Premier Wen Jiabao uncharacteristically lashed out at the Dalai Lama for spreading â€œdeceitful liesâ€. Premier Wen had to propitiate his boss President Hu. Having done that, he came to substantive policy. In a telephone conversation he told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he was prepared to have talks with the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama reciprocated by expressing willingness to hold talks in Beijing
â€“ which he had ruled out earlier. For formâ€™s sake, Wen continued to criticize the Tibetan leader. But the real climb-down was unmistakable. Prime Minister Brownâ€™s silent pressure seemed to work. Why? Because of economic compulsions. But the Peopleâ€™s Daily in Beijing subsequently advocated that the Tibetan uprising be ruthlessly crushed. This may not only abort the dialogue with Dalai Lama, it may also signal the start of a power struggle in China. What other explanation is there for the official party newspaper rubbishing the Chinese Premierâ€™s assurance to the British PM? Now how will Wen Jiabao react?
The US economic slump has long term crippling effects no less for China than for the US itself. Chinese exports to the US are the lifeline of its economy. As purchasing power in America shrinks, so will import of goods from China. Beijing must arrange alternative export markets. Europe is the obvious choice. But will Europe cooperate? That is where British Prime Minister Brown comes in.
China Business Weekly quoted William Pedder, chief executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), saying: â€œThe United Kingdom is the second-largest outward investor in the world, and is the gateway to the worldâ€™s biggest single market â€“ Europe. . . . That is what you need when you want to find a place in Europe, because we have a long tradition of doing business with all other European nations. We expect to see more Chinese companies as they understand the potential of selling direct into Europe.â€
While China itself is a top destination for foreign direct investment, the UK is inviting companies from the Middle Kingdom to make direct investment in British equities. Right now that is a much more attractive destination for Chinaâ€™s foreign exchange surplus than US Treasury securities. Initially Britain was hesitant to allow huge influx of Chinese direct investment because of security concerns. Once Prime Minister Brown cleared that hurdle, China was hooked. Little wonder that Brownâ€™s call for restraint and dialogue worked with Wen Jiabao.
However, even if Wen Jiabao prevails and an acceptable compromise with the Dalai Lama is achieved before the Olympic Games, it may not end Beijingâ€™s troubles. The Tibetan unrest could exert the domino effect theory in China. Commentators and Chinese authorities are focusing mostly on Taiwan. It is likely that trouble may erupt from a different direction.
On March 7th Chinese security frustrated a terrorist attempt on an airline flight. It was a crude attempt by a Uighur woman from Xingjian. The womanâ€™s husband who had put her up was from Central Asia and had already fled China. He had carried a Pakistani passport and was most likely an Al Qaeda member based in Pakistan. This reinforces this scribeâ€™s conjecture, written earlier, that under Ayman-al-Zawahiri the Al Qaeda has changed its cozy relationship with China, indicated by the agreement between Mullah Omar and the PLA in 2001, to one of outright hostility. Chinese arms for Iranâ€™s Shia militants were cited as reason for this change of attitude in the Taliban and Sunni dominated Al Qaeda. The 2001 agreement between China and pro-Al Qaeda Taliban was based on Osama bin Ladenâ€™s assurance not to foment trouble in Xingjian. The murder of several Chinese based in Pakistan, lauded by Islamabadâ€™s Lal Masjid clerics, shattered that accord. Cannot more trouble now be expected on the Xingjian front? Especially since Al Qaeda and Taliban are far more geared for violence than are Tibetan protesters?
Arguably, autonomy and democratic self-rule for Tibet and Xingjian would help China defuse the crisis. But even that may not end Chinaâ€™s problem. There is a silent mass of people within China that seeks much more freedom in this information era. Proof of that was provided by the Falun Gong, which was devoted solely to cultural affairs. The huge crowds that the Falun Gong mobilized so alarmed the Chinese communists that the movement was banned. Will not the sparks from Tibet ignite this movement to erupt before the Olympic Games? One has to wait and watch.
To be great China needs to uphold Tibet culture
Manoj Joshi March 26, 2008
After being overwhelmed by the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army in 1950, the Tibetans have broken out in open revolt thrice â€”in 1959, 1989 and now in 2008. Considering the herculean efforts that have been made by China to control the Tibetans, this is remarkable, and ought to serve as a warning of sorts to Beijing. The Chinese have played a cynical game in Tibet. They claimed that they entered it to liberate its people from serfdom and to protect its special status, but in fact they split Tibet into several provinces and what we call Tibet today comprises just half its traditional territory. Despite professing atheism, the Chinese have blatantly interfered in the religious practices of Tibet, including taking decisions on who is an incarnate lama.
No country in the world supports an independent Tibet. Yet, among the people in democratic countries, Chinese sovereignty over Tibet is only reluctantly conceded. Most Indians, barring the Communists, believe that Tibet is a colonial possession of China, held down by the force of the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army. The reality is, of course, partly true though more complex.
Though the Lama rulers of Tibet accepted Chinese authority over their country, they were not vassals in the sense that Korea and Vietnam were. Indeed, the Tibetans emphasise that neither the 5th Dalai Lama in 1652 nor the 13th in 1908 performed the ceremony of kowtow when they met the Chinese emperor. On the other hand, it is clear that the Tibetans accepted what the British called â€œsuzeraintyâ€ , a loose kind of Chinese overlordship with considerable autonomy. But between 1911 and 1951, Tibet was completely independent.
When the Communists took control of China in October 1949, one of the first items on their agenda was to assert Chinese control over Tibet. As in the case of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Mao Zedongâ€™s declaration that there would be self-determination for the minorities in the Peopleâ€™s Republic turned out to be a cynical exercise in deception. The Chinese Communist Party insisted that the territorial limits of China were the same as those of the Qing dynasty that was overthrown in 1911. It is not as though the Tibetans welcomed the Chinese as liberators. Despite the enormous difference between the Chinese and Tibetan forces, the latter resisted the Chinese onslaught and only after some 30 major and minor battles did the Tibetans sue for peace. A 17-point agreement was signed that allowed for Tibet â€œnational regional autonomyâ€ and helped retain its political and cultural structures. However, the increasing pressure by the Chinese, as well as perhaps some American instigation, led to a revolt that brought the â€œone country two systemsâ€ effort to an end. In 1965 the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) was constituted, but two years later, Tibetan culture and autonomy were devastated by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Since the late 1970s the Chinese have sought to promote the economic development of Tibet and opened it up to the outside world. This has been manifested by the growth of tourism, as well as the infrastructure in terms of a new railway and several new highways and other development projects.
The ongoing Tibetan uprising is, or ought to be, a matter of great concern to India. Just a glance at the map will show why this large region, with which we share a 4,056-km border, is of such strategic importance for our country. Many of our principal rivers rise there, and since 1951 this historically undefended area of India has come under the administrative control and military occupation of China.
This development was resisted by India from the very outset. Advised by the British, India did not contest Chinaâ€™s decision to â€œliberateâ€ Tibet. It deluded itself that it was merely recognising Chinese â€œsuzeraintyâ€ , even while upholding its autonomy. However, when â€œsuzeraintyâ€ turned out to be nothing but old-fashioned â€œsovereigntyâ€, and that too, of the colonial variety, New Delhi could do little. In 1954, it tamely signed away all its special diplomatic privileges to the â€œTibet Autonomous Region of Chinaâ€. This was but the beginning of a phase that led to a humiliating defeat of the Indian army at the hands of the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army in 1962 on the borderlands of Tibet.
So, today, India has had to reconcile itself to the situation in Tibet. Indeed, at almost every turn it has had to go out of its way to reassure China that it recognises its sovereignty over Tibet. This is how the last joint declaration during the visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to China in June 2003 reads: â€œThe Indian side recognises that the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China and reiterates that it does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India.
The Chinese side expresses its appreciation for the Indian position and reiterates that it is firmly opposed to any attempt and action aimed at splitting China and bringing about â€˜independence of Tibetâ€™.â€
And this is how the April 2005 Joint Statement during the visit of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao reads: â€œThe Indian side reiterated that it recognised the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China and that it did not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India.â€
All this is presumably seen by Beijing as expiation by India for its initial insistence that the Chinese respect Tibetan autonomy under their â€œsuzeraintyâ€, and for giving shelter to the Dalai Lama.
The Chinese are now playing a waiting game in Tibet, hoping that the passing of the 14th Dalai Lama, currently 73, will enable them to put in place a puppet. This is the procedure they have followed in the case of the Panchen Lama, the second great Lama of Tibet. The two Lamas are supposed to help determine each otherâ€™s reincarnation. When the previous Panchen Lama, who was a Chinese prisoner, passed away, the search committee headed by Chadrel Rimpoche found Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as his reincarnation and this was announced by the Dalai Lama. But the Chinese imprisoned Chadrel and got another search committee to come up with another name. No one is sure where Nyima is, and the substitute Panchen Lama has been installed in his place. It is this crass interference in Tibetan cultural and religious traditions that raise questions about Chinaâ€™s motives in Tibet.
Yet if the experience of the world is anything to go by, Chinese actions will not help in curbing Tibetansâ€™s desire to assert their cultural and religious identity. This is the lesson from the current uprising that has spread not just across TAR, but Gansu, Sichuan and other areas that are part of traditional Tibet.
India cannot turn the clock back on Tibet and undo the policy track it adopted in 1950. But what it can, and should do, is to insist that China not use the cover of national sovereignty to deny Tibetans their human rights, which most importantly include the right to practise and uphold their culture. At the same time, New Delhi must make it clear to the Tibetans and the world community, that such a goal cannot be achieved through
militancy. In fact militant confrontation only aids the Chinese to split the Dalai Lama from the younger generation of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has taken a most reasonable position on negotiations with China and publicly opposed a boycott of the Olympics. Tibetan rights will not be obtained by humiliating Beijing, but by persuading it that in todayâ€™s world, great nations are identified by the rights enjoyed by their minorities. No matter what the CPC theorists may be telling the old men in Zhongnanhai, there simply will never be anything called â€œdemocracy with Chinese characteristics.â€
Tibet: Resuming dialogue is the only option
Ram Madhav March 24, 2008
â€œThe writer is a national executive member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
China reacted predictably. It insisted that the Buddhist monks in Lhasa and elsewhere had indulged in arson and violence. It reiterated its resolve to â€˜crushâ€™ the voices of independence. It accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of masterminding the uprising and described him as a â€˜wolfâ€™. The Communist Party of Tibet called him a â€˜jackal in ochre robesâ€™.
Chinaâ€™s predicament is quite obvious. Unlike on earlier occasions â€” whether it was the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Tibetan uprisings in the late â€™80s â€” today technology has become a big bane for it. Despite its best efforts to gag the media, jam satellite transmissions and launch a propaganda offensive, it couldnâ€™t really suppress the details of the happenings from reaching the outside world.
Dharamshala, which apparently has some channels of communication still open with the gadget-savvy monks and other Tibetans in Tibet and elsewhere, has valid reasons to believe that the Chinese government is indulging in genocide. Even His Holiness had claimed that 70-80 Tibetan demonstrators were killed in the crackdown by the Chinese security forces. Samdong Rimpoche, the highly revered prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, too expressed his serious concern over what he termed as the â€˜cultural genocideâ€™ launched by China in Tibet.
All this happened so suddenly and swiftly that even the so-called Sinologists and Tibet experts were caught completely unawares. The uprising of Tibetans on the occasion of the 59th Anniversary of the last battle for saving Tibet thus brought the question of Tibetâ€™s future onto the centre-stage again.
While the Chinese government is fuming at the rising demand for Tibetan independence not only within the occupied Tibetan territory but all over the Western world, certain individual and national players are looking at this crisis as an excellent opportunity to further embarrass, if not put pressure on, the Chinese by way of boycott of the Olympics scheduled to take place in a few months from now in Beijing. They also see an opportunity for them to meddle in the troubled waters with demands like UN-sponsored lawyers and jurists in Lhasa etc.
As it happens always, in this melee the core issue for which His Holiness and the government in exile are fighting is totally left by the wayside.
I was in Lhasa towards the end of last year. No doubt Lhasa is a well-developed city today â€” with good roads, flashy cars, upmarket malls and omnipresent advanced electronic gadgets. But keen observers donâ€™t miss the fact that while the city has everything that other developed cities in China boast of, the only thing conspicuous by its absence is Tibetanism, the essential persona of Tibetan identity.
Tibetans are no doubt there, but largely as pullers of rickshaws and push-carts, doing small-time businesses or petty jobs. There is a glaring demographic division â€” which some rightly prefer to call as invasion by the Hans â€” that has left the Tibetans at the lower rung, both numerically as well as in terms of development.
More importantly, they find themselves far removed from their spiritual and temporal leadership. What is of paramount importance for the survival of Tibetanism in Tibet is the return of His Holiness and his followers to the Potala Palace. No one knows its significance more than His Holiness himself. That is the reason why he and his government-in-exile are prepared for the autonomy offered, albeit half-heartedly, by the Chinese.
There were several rounds of talks between the leaders of the government-in-exile and the Chinese government that led to agreement on several points. Yet the stalemate continues, especially on two crucial issues.
One is the demographic and geographic question. China, after annexing Tibet in 1959, divided it into 6 different regions. What is today described by China as the Autonomous Region of Tibet is just one of those 6 regions. All the 6 regions are inhabited by a good number of Tibetans. In fact the recent uprisings were witnessed in almost all these regions. His Holiness wants unification of Tibet which is vehemently opposed by the Chinese.
The second issue on which stalemate continues is about what should be the history taught to the Tibetans in their schools and monasteries. Tibetans want freedom to teach their history as how they look at it. But the Chinese want it the way they manufacture and propagate it. In fact the Chinese version of Tibetan history has been showcased in museums across the Tibetan region, including Lhasa.
What is most unfortunate is the breakdown of the talks some time in 2006 after which China never showed any interest to resume them.
It is a razor-edge walk for His Holiness and his men. A section of the exiles is vociferously opposed to the very idea of autonomy. Anything short of total independence is not acceptable to them. Many in India and elsewhere who have been ardent supporters of the Tibetan cause too feel let down by the acquiescence of His Holiness for autonomy.
However, none can deny the fact that His Holiness is the right man to decide on such matters. In a conflict between urgent and important, it is his wisdom coupled with experience that would guide the Tibetan struggle. As one of the senior leaders in the government-in-exile put it succinctly â€˜The fire of independence can never be doused.â€™
The recent violence has provided justification for China to vilify and in the event further delay the process of reconciliation set off by His Holiness. But it canâ€™t escape the responsibility for the violence, as it is essentially an outcome of the breakdown of dialogue.
News trickling down from Lhasa of the crackdown by the Chinese forces is disturbing and will certainly not help in finding a solution to this problem. China should realise that this time round the uprisings are quite widespread, clearly indicating that the displeasure over and opposition to its stranglehold over Tibetans is becoming bolder and shriller.
It is not in its interest to use its Cultural Revolution-style responses against popular revolutions. Brutal oppression, military action, media gagging etc might have paid off in the previous century. But they will only harm Chinese interests if pursued in this age and time also. Ominous signs are visible already, with Chinese intellectuals â€”perhaps for the first time after the dreaded Cultural Revolution experience â€” openly raising their voice and questioning the stand taken by their own government.
Their language betrayed clear defiance, which would certainly rattle the Chinese leadership. It is time the Chinese started responding differently. It should positively receive the offer of resumption of talks by His Holiness.
India has maintained the position that the Tibet question is Chinaâ€™s internal matter. With 150,000 Tibetan citizens living in exile on its soil, many of whom shuttle between India and Tibet frequently, India nevertheless has a role in the resolution of this issue. Also, with Tibet under its control China has become Indiaâ€™s Himalayan neighbour.
Violent struggles in the Himalayan region are a matter of concern for our national interests. Whether it is Burma or Nepal or Tibet, these violent struggles have the potential to allow certain Western powers to gain strategic foothold. This may, in the short term, help in containing and pinning down China. But it cannot be overlooked that Indiaâ€™s strategic interests lie in keeping the Himalayan region free from any influence of outside powers.
Revolt in Tibet: Implications for India
B Raman March 17, 2008
The writer is additional secretary (retired), cabinet secretariat and, presently,
director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the
Chennai Centre For China Studies.
The Government of India has adopted a two-pronged policy in relation to the outbreak of a revolt in Lhasa in protest against the continued occupation of Tibet by China and the violation of human rights by the Chinese.
India has prevented Tibetan refugees in India from indulging in activities which might result in acts of violence or disruption directed against Chinese nationals and interests in India and in dramatic acts such as their professed intention of crossing the border into Tibet, which could lead to an undesirable escalation of cross-border tensions. At the same time, it has expressed its distress over the situation in Tibet and called for a dialogue so that the Tibetans donâ€™t feel the need to take to acts of violence in their desperation. A spokesman of the ministry of external affairs said on March 15: â€œWe would hope that all those involved will work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China, through dialogue and non-violent means.â€
This is the right approach â€” expressing our moral support to the Tibetans in accordance with our national interests without identifying ourselves with the attempts of anti-China activists in the West, particularly the US, to exploit the continued alienation of the Tibetans and their desperation to create embarrassment for China before and during the Olympic Games. This is done in the hope of achieving their own foreign policy goals in matters such as greater Chinese pressure on North Korea on the nuclear issue and on the military junta in Myanmar for restoration of democracy and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
There are two issues involved here â€” the aspirations of the Tibetans, and using the Tibetans to needle China and create difficulties for it in organising the Olympic Games and making a success of it. While supporting the aspirations of the Tibetans in a sophisticated manner, we should not identify ourselves with the attempts of anti-China activists to sabotage the Olympic Games. We should do whatever we can to help China in making a success of the Olympic Games. If India is seen as discreetly helping the efforts of the anti-China activists in their anti-Beijing Olympics, we will hurt the national pride of over a billion Chinese. This is not in our national interest.
Indira Gandhi disapproved the attempts of the West to exploit the Afghanistan issue to embarrass and humiliate the erstwhile USSR as the host of the 1980 Olympics by organising a boycott of the Moscow Games. A similar attempt is now on to exploit the Tibetan issue to embarrass and humiliate China as the host of the forthcoming Olympics by organising, if possible, a boycott of the Beijing Olympics or at least a disruption of it. India should strongly oppose this and should advise the Dalai Lama too not to let the Tibetans be used by anti-China activists in the US to target the Beijing Olympics. These activists had waged a fierce campaign against the award of the Olympics to Beijing. Having failed in their attempts, they are now trying to sabotage the Games.
Our aim should be not to embarrass and humiliate China, but to persuade it to change its policy on Tibet and enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on mutually agreed terms. India should play the role of a facilitator of such a dialogue. India has done well in expressing openly its distress over the turn of events in Tibet and in expressing its interest in a dialogue and not a street confrontation between the Chinese and the Tibetans. It could consider one more step at this important point in the history of the Tibetan issue â€” removing all? Informal restrictions on official and social interactions with the Dalai Lama and his advisers.
Though not openly admitted, such informal restrictions exist. We saw it at the end of last year, when the cabinet secretary reportedly advised ministers not to attend a public reception for the Dalai Lama to felicitate him on the award of the Congressional Medal of Honour in the US. Greater interaction between the prime minister and the Dalai Lama in the form of exchange of courtesy calls, meetings for discussions etc should be considered.
Till now, our policy has been to make a clear distinction between the religious and political dimensions of our stand with regard to the Dalai Lama. We have been saying that the courtesies and honour extended to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees is because of his stature as a highly respected Buddhist leader in the land where Buddhism was born, but it has no political significance and does not imply our tacit support for his political views.
We should now make it clear that we consider the Dalai Lama is also an important political figure in the eyes of the Tibetans and hence, his political views have to be considered in determining our policy on Tibet.
Expressing our moral support to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, without damaging our relations with the Chinese leadership and people â€” that should be the objective of our policy. The Tibetan issue has defied a solution for over 50 years. It will be wrong and unwise to think that it can be solved now â€” or at least a beginning made in that direction â€” by exploiting the Chinese eagerness to make a success of the Beijing Olympics.
There are many landmines in the path of policy-making and implementation. As we fine-tune our policy and push it forward gradually, there could be misperceptions and misinterpretations in China with not only negative impact on our relations, but also with renewed tensions across the border, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh.? We are likely to see a reversion to the period between the 1960s and the 1980s when the Chinese military
was in the driving seat of policy-making on Tibet. It was during that period that we saw the military confrontation of 1962 and the subsequent tensions in Sino-Indian relations.
The confidence of the Chinese political leadership that they have pacified Tibet and its people once and for all has been badly shaken. The current revolt shows there has been no emotional integration between the Tibetans and the Han settlers in Tibet. The fear of the masses would once again distort the Chinese military mindset in Tibet. They will not admit that their policies towards the Tibetan people are responsible for the revolt. Instead,
they would see with greater conviction than in the past that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees in India are the source of all their problems in Tibet. The temptation to divert international attention away from Tibet to Arunachal Pradesh and Dharamsala by engaging in military moves in the Arunachal Pradesh area would be strong.
The conventional wisdom holds that the Chinese are so eager to make a success of the Olympics that they would not make any negative moves. This could be so, if the situation in Tibet calms down without any more escalation. But if the revolt further deteriorates and if the Chinese find themselves facing a situation where the choice is between saving their hold on Tibet and saving the Olympics, they would not hesitate to give priority to the suppression of the Tibetans. Their behaviour with relation to Arunachal Pradesh could become unpredictable.
Renewed cross-border military tensions â€” even Chinese incursions of a major nature â€” in Arunachal Pradesh after the Olympics is a possibility to be factored into in our scenario-buiding and policy-making exercise.
Our presence in Arunachal Pradesh should be further strengthened and the various infrastructure projects recently announced by the prime minister during his visit to the area should be pushed through vigorously.