By Tashi Topgyal
As a second-generation Tibetan exile in India, it is unsettling to see how China continues to disrupt India’s security around its border while subjecting the world to a standstill with its secrecy and underhandedness that allowed the COVID-19 virus to blow up into a raging pandemic.
As a Tibetan refugee, I am hopeful that the current Prime Minister Modi led government will stand up to China, unlike its predecessors who played into Chinese hand time and again.
While Tibetans in India are forever beholden to Indian people for giving them asylum and a certain level of freedom that was taken away from us in Tibet, it is time for the Indian government to amend for grievous mistakes it made in condoning China’s annexation of Tibet in the mid-20thcentury in the name of non-alignment policy.
After the formation of the People’s Republic of China led by the Communist Party of China, China encroached into Tibet in the name of liberation.
Tibet entrusted much hope in its ancient neighbour India to spread the word about the serious invasion Tibet was facing and to galvanise the world to deter China. Nehru, in his penchant for non-aligned policy and drive to keep India hassle-free on all fronts, downplayed the critical situation of Tibet in the UN forum and successfully dissuaded any nations from coming to Tibet’s rescue.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, in his letter to Nehru on November 7, 1950, expressed great concern for the situation in Tibet. He said that according to him, the final action of the Chinese is just short of perfidy. He raised the concerns the new situation of border with China would raise as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it, and the expansion of China almost up to India’s gates. In conclusion, he sought to meet Nehru immediately to discuss these crucial issues in person.
Even though China continued its expansionist attitude and aggression leading to the Doklam standoff in mid-2017, 60 years after the Panchsheel agreement, it was a relief to have the Modi-led Indian government stand its ground this time.
Had Nehru done the same for Tibet, things would be different not only for the Tibetans but India’s stability and growth wouldn’t have been disrupted so much as China had done over the years.
Tibetan exile, on their part, walked hand in hand with the Indian army by taking part in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, Siachen War from 1984 to 2003, and Kargil War in 1999.
There are many well-meaning Tibet Support Groups in India and all over the world these days but to have the grassroots support translate into political will, it is incumbent on Indian policymakers to see China for what it is and not for what it says it is.
The world is currently experiencing a reawakening of its dynamics with China, necessitated by the raging pandemic. China’s underhandedness in its dealing with the pandemic is very telling in how it has been cracking down upon the people of Tibet, East Turkestan, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
With the world at a standstill, reeling under the stress of containing the spread of the virus, China chooses to encroach into Indian territory in Ladakh where it has captured hundreds of miles of territory over the years.
The US lawmakers had passed a bill demanding setting up of embassy in Lhasa in its updated ‘Tibet Policy Act’. The Tibetans across the world hailed the bill and appealed to the US lawmakers to extend the recognition to the whole of Tibet, including the three traditional provinces of Tibet.
With forces coming together to hold China responsible for its double-dealing of COVID-19 virus infection, and economic sanctions and crisis unveiling the simmering internal dissent in China, it is both an opportunity for and the responsibility of India-to stand for Tibetans and drop One-China policy and recognise Tibet as an independent country.
(The author is a member of the Tibetan community in Shillong)
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