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Compromise on Tibet?

Opinion is sharply divided on what is being seen as India's departure from its stated diplomatic position on Tibet.

india Updated: Jul 02, 2003 17:33 IST

Opinion is sharply divided on what is being seen as India's departure from its stated diplomatic position on Tibet. Analysts here feel India seems to have lost the diplomatic game of reciprocity following its new formulation on Tibet.

What is being viewed with surprise is that while it has accepted "Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the territory of People's Republic of China" and reiterated that it will not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India, it has not earned the explicit recognition of Sikkim in the Joint Declaration issued during the PM's trip to China. What is also missing in the Joint Declaration is any specific mention of cross border terrorism against India in J&K.

In the press communiqués issued in 1988 during the visit of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and followed by the visit of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, New Delhi did not go beyond stating that Tibet is an autonomous region of China.

"We have compromised on the central principle of diplomacy that is reciprocity, India has made concessions to China on major issues like Tibet, and on border issue by agreeing to talk on the political aspect which the Chinese wanted," said Strategic Analyst Brahma Chellaney.

Following the joint statement, the Foreign Office dug out the text of the old agreements of 1954 and a note sent to the Chinese embassy in 1958 stating that India referred to Tibet as "Tibet region of China". However, this argument may not hold as the Sikkim issue didn't exist and the Sino-Indian friendship was the flavour of the season.

However some like former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral do not feel it is a compromise. "We have not conceded the interest of India, our policy on Tibet only follows what Dalai Lama has already said, we have attempted to add tranquility to our relationship." Clearly New Delhi has attempted to tame the dragon, by demonstrating flexibility in addressing thorny issues like Tibet, however what diplomatic benefits it will bring remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling expressed "happiness" over the Sino-Indian agreement on reopening the Na Thula trade route, saying the Vajpayee government had finally "fulfilled" one of his long-standing demands.

First Published: Jun 25, 2003 01:34 IST