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READING LIST
JUNE - 2013 ISSUE

Force Magazine

 Democracy at Work
 By helping Tibetans exercise their rights, India can help itself
 


His Holiness Dalai LamaDeng Xiaoping, the strategist par excellence, who is credited with China’s four modernisations in the Eighties which paved the way for present-day China, was also responsible for the tectonic changes in Beijing’s India and Tibet policies, both of which unfolded in 1988, when China was still a weak nation.

Interestingly, Tibetans changed too, though less dramatically, in August 2011 with the election of Lobsang Sangay, the first dapper and Harvard-educated internationalist to the post of Sikyong (Prime Minister) of the Central Tibetan Authority (government-in-exile) based in Dharamsala. India, unfortunately, continues to resist changes which will benefit its democratic credentials, international profile, China policy, and the Tibetan cause all at once.

An Indian Deng Xiaoping would have realised that after Delhi formally accepted Tibet as a part of China in 2003, the Dalai Lama as the Tibetan spiritual head and Sangay as the Tibetan temporal head are India’s defence against a confrontationist China which will not allow India space in Asia, much less the world. Tibet, after all, is China’s core-interest area.

During the 1988 visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China, Deng made it known that the border resolution was no longer on the table; both countries could now best strive for a peaceful border, something which remains elusive till today. The package deal offered by Deng to India in 1984 for border resolution had been withdrawn following the 1986 Somdorong Chu incident which witnessed a year-long military build-up on the border by both sides.

Similarly, the offer made by Deng in April 1988 to the Dalai Lama that he could live in Lhasa provided he gave up his goal of independence was withdrawn after the Dalai Lama replied to Beijing through his famous 1988 Strasbourg address at the European Parliament where he unveiled his ‘Middle Path’ and declared to forego the independence call made in 1959 from exile in India.

The Dalai Lama said that Tibet could remain with China if Beijing allowed an autonomous status to the whole of Tibet (political and ethnographic), to include Amdo, Kham and U-tsang areas (Tibet Autonomous Region). The Dalai Lama’s Greater Tibet covered the TAR, the whole of Qinghai province, western parts of Sichuan, areas of Yunnan and a slice of Gansu. Beijing immediately cried foul and rejected it saying that it was an indirect call for independence. China could not permit Taiwan’s status of ‘one country, two systems’ to Tibet and have democracy flourishing alongside authoritarian rule. Moreover, the creation of Greater Tibet meant disrespect to Beijing drawn administrative boundaries. The minimum the Dalai Lama was asking was much more than the maximum Beijing could give. Even as China was working on a befitting response to the Strasbourg address, two things happened that undermined Beijing’s credibility: the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and there was the Tiananmen Square debacle the same year. China’s internal and external strategies on Tibet had gone awry. It hardened its position and labelled the Dalai Lama as a ‘splittist.’ This was not all. The dithering since 1950 when China ‘liberated’ Tibet on how much freedom should be given to TAR was over, and Beijing embarked on the modernisation drive. Massive funds and non-Tibetan as labour and entrepreneur were pumped into TAR. The results are all too evident: Tibet has been modernised beyond recognition, and there is economic prosperity. The price has been that because of the ‘floating population’ of non-Tibetans, Lhasa has more Han Chinese living there, who control the economy, with fringe benefits going to the Tibetans.

 
 
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