Politicians have such convenient memories. The other day, on a major news channel, a spokesman of the Congress declared that India had no business to interfere in the internal affairs of another country by taking a position on human rights abuse and the brutal crackdown in Tibet.
He forgot, very conveniently, that between 1966-1976, the People’s Republic of China armed, nourished, trained and supported no less than three major armed insurgencies in North-east India: first the Nagas, whose Th. Muivah was received by Zhou en-lai; Laldenga of the Mizos was also received by Zhou and top Chinese leaders, while the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur got its training in urban guerrilla welfare in Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet.
That wasn’t interference in our internal affairs? Ah, but one perhaps should not fault the Congress functionary, one should fault his age: perhaps he is too young to remember any of this recent history.
We also forget too easily that all Chinese maps show Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China. According to the Chinese, their border in India’s North-east begins with Assam. That remains at the core of China’s border dispute with India. That is the 90,000 sq. km they seek, forget about Aksai Chin.
The government, Congress and CPI(M) also forget with unblushing regularity that the Chinese Ambassador to India has repeatedly abused his protected status as a diplomat and declared Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of China. He did this before the visit of Hu Jintao; was he summoned to the Foreign Office and told off? Was an official letter of protest handed to the Chinese Foreign Office? No.
There is the Chinese determination on Arunachal. So, now face them down in negotiations; Arunachal is ours and will remain so. Are the Chinese prepared to physically seek to resolve the issue? I doubt. The Indian Prime Minister or President should go to Tawang, which at the core of the dispute, to cement this point; it is where the Dalai Lama came during his flight from Lhasa in 1959.
We should have the gumption to speak out instead of following a policy of gobbledy gook.
Because of our soft position on Tibet, the Chinese think they can get away — and are — with the murder of a race they can never conquer. In addition, they are abusing one of the world’s great spiritual leaders, and one of its finest human beings. Our government lacks the courage to stand up, not having learned from its experience of the saffron protests in Myanmar last winter, where its non-interference made it stand out like a sore thumb.
The Chinese have patted us on the back for the way we have handled the Tibetan protests. Of course, the Indian government did the right thing by protecting the Chinese embassy. That is acceptable; what is not acceptable is the effort to intimidate them into silence by declaring they have no business to ‘indulge’ in political activities. This is rubbish.
The presence of the Dalai Lama and the 120,000 Tibetans-in-exile in India is a political statement. We give them a place to stay, opportunity to protect their threatened culture and practise their endangered faith. They do business and conduct spiritual teachings. All residents of India, the government of this country needs to be reminded, enjoy equal human rights as any citizen here, according to the Supreme Court.
One basic human right is the right to mobilise politically and speak out on any issue. unlike China, India is a democracy — we honour those who noisily air their differences, even take up arms because of their gripe with the State, but we seek to embrace dialogue — although we do not do it very well.
What is also often forgotten when we talk of China is that there is an underside to economic success: labour disputes have surged ever since pro-capitalist measures came into place, rising from 19,098 cases in 1994 to 314,000 in 2005. So, all is not well in the Middle Kingdom.
The Chinese classicisms of double-speak is seen in their remarks on the Dalai Lama: “he should look within” (he does that as a spiritual leader constantly every day). But of course in their eyes, Beijing has done no wrong and, therefore, does not need to conduct similar introspection.
China has failed to understand that 50 years of repression and oppression of the Tibetans has exploded into absolute hatred of the Han Chinese; it has now spilled into other provinces where Tibetans live. Such visceral hatred is rare among the Tibetans, a normally gentle people. As a result, this Great Power bristling with nuclear missiles, a huge bank balance with which it is influencing the world from South-east Asia to Africa, now is scurrying to save face, with tens of thousands of heavily-armed troops. Can a nation that is running scared of unarmed protesters be called a ‘Super Power’?
The Dalai Lama is a man of erudition and grace, apart from his depth as a human being and a spiritual leader. If there was any one person today who exemplifies humility, resilience and commands universal respect – apart from Nelson Mandela — surely it is Tenzing Gyatso, the leader of the Tibetan people.
Chinese meddling in the North-east may have physically stopped after the re-establishment of ambassadorial representation in 1976. But, has it? How many here know that Muivah’s top arms procurer lived until the 1990s at Kunming, Yunnan, with his family? That official Chinese weapons turn up with alarming regularity with the armed groups in the North-east – of course, it is a business and the Chinese are good businessmen.
So, let the Dalai Lama have his say; the Tibetans will speak and march, let them march to the borders. We can stop them there. But let the Chinese watch freedom ring in India as we honour a great man and his people in their struggle for a land they may never see.
If the Chinese talk to the Dalai Lama, they are not doing him any service. He is doing them an honour; he has given up the dream of independence but speaks of true autonomy. But even that is not acceptable to the Chinese; they want him and ‘his clique, his splittist’ supporters to vanish from the face of the earth. Yet his influence is overwhelming: in every Buddhist temple I visited during a journey through Tibet, there is always a high chair which no abbot or Rinpoche will sit on — it is for the Dalai Lama, when he returns.
They are making the same mistake of the Taliban by blasting the great Buddhist statues at Bamiyan. That by throwing such force against a symbol they are betraying their own weakness and acknowledging the overwhelming power of the other.
The Chinese do not know how to conduct a dialogue with those who disagree with them; they only know how to suppress, despite the smart superficial veneer of sophistication. The Chinese State, by example, shows that it goes by Mao’s dictum: ‘Power flows from the barrel of a gun’.
Therefore, with the Beijing Olympics looming, China stands to gain more by conducting a dialogue with the Dalai Lama instead of relying on brute force. It is better to open a dialogue and, with that one gesture, disarm the world and take a step toward reconciliation and peace.
The Dalai Lama has shown that true power flows from the depth of the human heart.
Sanjoy Hazarika is a specialist on the North-east and Managing Trustee, Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, New Delhi