India’s Tibet card

New Delhi affirms a ‘one-China policy’ and says anti-China protests on its soil are illegal. In 2008, Beijing was grateful to New Delhi for preventing Tibetan activists from disrupting the Beijing Olympics torch relay.

India did not wave the Tibet card in bilateral relations until China shifted its Kashmir policy.

Beijing backed down on stapling visas of Indian residents of J&K only after New Delhi equated Tibet with Kashmir and demanded ‘mutual sensitivity’ on its sovereignty over Kashmir in return for recognising China’s core concerns over Tibet. After Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit in 2010, the joint statement pointedly did not reiterate India’s one-China policy.

India will get drawn deeper into the standoff between China and Dalai Lama’s followers. Recently, China postponed border talks (Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘Southern Tibet’) coinciding with the Dalai Lama’s address in Delhi. Tibetans returning from a Buddhist meet in Bihar last December were reportedly detained in China. It has not totally deterred escapes. “I feel free in India,” said Sherab Gyatso, 20, a Tibetan nomad who just arrived.

Robert Barnett at Columbia University says Tibetans will not risk alienating their Indian hosts. But the monks are worried. “The Dalai Lama is in his 70s. Every person in Tibet wants to see him,” said Lobsang Keshi at Dharamshala’s Kirti monastery. He said the peaceful Tibetan movement could turn violent if the crackdown  persisted. “The self-immolations are radicalising exiled Tibetans who will no doubt question what the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach seeking genuine autonomy has achieved,” said Tibet specialist Dibyesh Anand.

 

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