Sunday, March 30, 2008



The Chinese Ministry of Public Security,which is responsible for internal intelligence and security and oversees the administration of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, is reported to have issued instructions to the Chinese Embassies in countries having a large number of Tibetan refugees to mobilise the local Han residents to counter the anti-Beijing propaganda and activities of the Tibetan refugees and to prevent any attempt by the refugees to disrupt the passage of the Olympic torch through different countries.They have been advised to counter them through the Internet as well as on the ground. These instructions have reportedly come on the eve of the planned observance of March 31,2008, as a "Day of Action" by the Tibetan diaspora. On this day, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) proposes to hand over to the Chinese Embassies in important countries a petition calling for Tibetan independence, which has been signed by over one million people----Tibetans as well as foreigners--- all over the world. The petition was circulated and the signatures obtained through the Internet.

2. The Chinese have been concerned over the effective manner in which the TYC and Tibetan exile groups supporting it have been using the Internet to keep in touch with each other, to propagate the cause of Tibetan freedom, to carry on propaganda against Beijing and to call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Despite the Chinese clamp-down on the use of the Internet and mobile telephones in Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu, the TYC office-bearers abroad and the leaders of the Uprising Movement, formed by the TYC inside the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, continue to exchange communications with each other and keep the world informed of what has been going on inside Tibet. Thanks to the Internet and the mobile telephones and the ingenuity of the Tibetan youth, the Chinese have failed to impose a total iron curtain around the Tibetan-inhabited areas, though a partial iron curtain, which is 75 per cent effective, functions. Even young Tibetan monks in Tibet and other provinces have become adept in the use of the Internet.

3. The Han diaspora abroad has been advised to copy-cat the Tibetan use of the Internet in order to widely disseminate the Chinese version of the developments in Tibet since March 10,2008. There has been a mushrooming of Han-run blogs and chat rooms in the last one week to counter the Western version of the developments. A visit to some of these sites indicates that while they have been hitting hard at the Dalai Lama and his so-called clique and at Western media and Governments, they are avoiding any criticism of India. They are also avoiding blaming India for the activities of the Dalai Lama and the TYC.The Chinese authorities have been avoiding taking cognisance of the TYC and giving it a locus standi in the Tibetan issue. Instead, they continue to blame what they call the Dalai clique, which includes His Holiness himself, his set-up in Dharamsala, the TYC and other Tibetan non-governmental organisations agitating on the issue of the Tibetan rights.

4. The Chinese do not want to give the impression that they are doubting the sincerity of the Government of India when it says that it continues to regard Tibet as an integral part of China and is opposed to any anti-China activities from its territory. While accusing the Western countries of following double-standards with regard to the use of force to deal with internal disturbances, they have been avoiding projecting the uprising in the Tibetan-inhabited areas as engineered by the West. They have been recalling the ruthless manner in which President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, as the Interior Minister in 2005, put down the riots by the Muslim migrants in France and describing his present expression of concern over the Chinese use of force against the Tibetans as hypocrisy.

5. While continuing to make arrests of the suspected participants in the uprising and those, who could pose a threat during the passage of the Olympic flame through Tibet, they have at the same time mounted a campaign to re-assure the Western Governments and investors that the situation in Tibet is not as bad as projected by the Western media and has returned to normal. Their exercise to take teams of foreign journalists and diplomats to Lhasa to see the situation for themselves proved an embarrassment. When the journalists were visiting a monastery in Lhasa, a group of monks shouted anti-Chinese and pro-Dalai Lama slogans. The diplomats have expressed their dissatisfaction over the way the Chinese sought to exercise strict control over their movements in Lhasa and did not allow them to freely interact with the local population.

6. The Chinese have been surprised that despite the significant prosperity of the Tibetans as a result of the undoubted economic progress, there is a high level of discontent against the Government and support for the Dalai Lama. They attribute this to the failure of the local officials to realise the importance of "patriotic education" of the Tibetan youth. The importance of "patriotic re-education" was the running theme of the remarks made by Mr.Meng Jianzhu , the Minister for Public Security, during his interactions with local officials when he visited Lhasa on March 23 and 24,2008. His visit has been followed by the beginning of what appears to be a purge of local officials, who are seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the disturbances and prevent them. The "Tibet Daily" announced on March 30,2008, that Mr.Danzeng Langjie, Director of Tibet's Ethnic Minority and Religious Affairs Commission, has been "removed" from his post and replaced by Mr. Luosang Jiumei, who was the Vice-Secretary of the Communist Party committee of Lhasa since 2004. Both are ethnic Tibetans.

7.The Chinese Foreign Office is also reported to be unhappy with the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi for failing to closely monitor the activities of the Dalai Lama's set-up and the TYC and forewarn the Government in Beijing of their plans to create incidents before the passage of the Olympic flame through Tibet. The purge may eventually affect the staff of the Embassy too. (31-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Saturday, March 29, 2008



President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is still strong on paper. All the powers, which he had accumulated in his hands during his more than nine years of dictatorial rule, are still intact. de jure, he is still a strong President but,de facto, there has been a steady erosion of his ability to exercise those powers and to have his orders enforced.

2.He is finding himself in the same humiliating position as the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the then President, found himself after Benazir Bhutto returned to power in the elections of 1993 and Mr.Farooq Leghari, the then President, found himself after Mr.Nawaz Sharif swept to power in 1997 with a two-thirds majority. They found themselves reduced to irrelevance and chose to quit and fade away.

3.It is only a question of months, if not weeks, before Musharraf finds even the de jure powers being taken away by a hostile Parliament and Cabinet. He may find that he has no other option but to follow in the footsteps of Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Leghari.

4.Musharraf came to power with a bang in October,1999.He seems set to disappear, sooner or later, with a whimper. Those, who have been seeing him on the TV in recent days, would have noticed that the swagger in him is gone.

5.Nothing brought out the winds of change sweeping across Pakistan more dramatically than the way former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury and other judges sacked and kept under house arrest by the police on the orders of Musharraf found themselves freed and hailed by the very same police. After he was elected as the Prime Minister by the National Assembly, Mr.Yousef Raza Gilani said in his speech thanking the Assembly that his first order after assuming office would be to free the sacked Chief Justice and Judges from their house arrest. The Police did not wait for him to assume charge as the Prime Minister and issue a formal order lifting the house-arrest. They just released those under house-arrest without waiting for formal orders.

6. There is an air of elation in the civilian bureaucracy and the Police over the discomfiture of Musharraf. No other military dictator of Pakistan treated the civilian bureaucracy and the Police as contemptuously as Musharraf did. It is no wonder they have chosen to cast their lot with the new democratic dispensation under the Prime Minister. Hereafter, they will take orders---- whether in respect of counter-terrorism or in other matters of governance--- only from the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers and the Chief Ministers of the new Governments in the provinces and from no Army General.

7. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who has already called on the new Prime Minister, has to walk on a tight rope hereafter. His loyalty to and friendship with Musharraf are still strong. He would still prefer that Musharraf's pre-eminence in national security matters and in matters pertaining to the Armed Forces remain strong. At the same time, his future effectiveness as the COAS would depend on the trust which he enjoys from the elected Prime Minister. Can his continued loyalty to Musharraf as the President be reconciled with need for equal loyalty to a civilian and elected Prime Minister?

8. That is only one of the dilemmas facing Kiyani. The other arises from his equation with the military leadership in the US. The Pentagon thinks well of him. He had in the past got along well with his counterparts in the US Armed Forces. He has been as keen as Musharraf to do all he can to co-operate with the US in its counter-terrorism operations. He understands and appreciates the US concerns over the dangers of another 9/11 in the US homeland arising from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. He finds himself having to moderate the professional need for continued co-operation with the US in the light of the openly expressed hostility of large sections of the new coalition to such co-operation. Mr.Nawaz Sharif and Mr.Afsandyar Wali Khan, the chief of the Awami National Party (ANP) of the North-west Frontier Province, both of which are important props of the new Government, have the firm conviction that the policy of co-operation with the US as followed by Musharraf has aggravated the threat of terrorism and is the reason for the present wave of suicide terrorism sweeping across not only the Pashtun belt, but also areas outside the tribal belt.

9. Another person facing a dilemma is Mr. Asif Zardari, the Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). When Benazir Bhutto was alive, he shared her good vibrations for the US. After her death, he continues to have those vibrations, but is not in a position to give effect to them. His party failed to win an absolute majority under his stewardship in the elections of February 18,2008, thereby forcing it to seek the co-operation of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif and the ANP.

10. Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan seem determined to impose their thinking on the policies of the new Government--- whether it be in respect of the fight against terrorism or co-operation with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain, which has retained its pre-eminent position in the urban areas of Sindh.Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan never speak of Al Qaeda and its presence and activities from Pakistani territory. They seem to look upon it as a figment of the US imagination or as a threat over-projected by the US to serve its own strategic interests in this region. They also do not talk of the activities of the Neo Taliban headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, its Amir, from Pakistani territory.

11. Their main concern is with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has been behind the wave of suicide terrorism in Pakistan. They blame the policies of Musharraf and his co-operation with the US for driving the Tehrik to take to terrorism. They do not accept that the Tehrik is the Trojan Horse of Al Qaeda. They are determined to make overtures to the Tehrik through a suspension of military operations against it to be followed by a dialogue. Mr.Wali Khan has already announced that the new Government in Peshawar headed by his party would order the suspension of the military operations in the Swat Valley and enter into a dialogue with those, who have taken to arms against the Pakistan Government.

12.While Mr.Nawaz Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan make no secret of their keenness to bring the Tehrik into the mainstream, they are at the same time opposed to Mr.Zardari's attempts to keep the MQM in the mainstream. They make no secret of their distrust of the MQM and the Mohajirs, the refugees from India, whom it represents. Each distrusts the MQM for his own reason.Mr.Sharif distrusts it because of its perceived co-operation with Musharraf. Mr.Wali Khan distrusts it because of its alleged hostility to the Pashtun settlers in Karachi.
13. Mr.Zardari realises that Musharraf's action in bringing the MQM into the mainstream dramatically brought down sectarian and inter-ethnic violence in Karachi, which had become virtually ungovernable in the 1990s because of the violence. Mr.Zardari would like to accommodate the desires and concerns of the US----whether in respect of Musharraf's continuance in office or the counter-terrorism co-operation--- but is unable to do so because of the weak electoral position of the PPP.

14.As new political equations, new policies and new ideas are taking shape and contending with each other for acceptance, the US is showing signs of having already come to terms with the reality that Musharraf is an ally of yesterday, but is unlikely to be any longer of today and tomorrow. It has to search for new allies and new political and professional equations in Pakistan. One of the main purposes of the four-day visit of Mr.John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, and Mr.Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary of State, to Pakistan, which ended on March 26,2008, was to test the winds of change and share the US concerns over terrorism and its determination to prevent another 9/11 with the new leadership before they make any major changes in policy. They met not only Musharraf, Gen.Kiyani and other senior Army officers, Mr.Zardari, Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan, but also many of the new provincial leaders in the NWFP and Sindh.

15. The timing of the visit was significant. Normally, one would have expected them to come after the new Government was in position. Their decision to come even before the new Government was in position ran the risk of being misinterpreted as an interference in Pakistan's internal affairs. Despite this, they came in order to make it clear to their interlocutors the US thinking and concerns on the various issues on which policy changes are being demanded.

16. There are three issues of major concern to the US---- the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, continued Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda and its associates operating from Pakistani territory and continued logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory from Karachi. It had been accepted by all political formations even in the past that the Army would be in the driving seat of all decision-making relating to the nuclear arsenal. The US would prefer that Musharraf continues in power and exercises this responsibility. If his exit becomes inevitable, they would like this responsibility to be exercised by Gen.Kiyani and not by the political leaders of the new Government. At present, none of the political leaders wants to disturb the role of the Army in this field.

17. In anticipation of a possible decision by the new Government to stop the logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory, the US and other NATO countries are already negotiating with Russia and Uzbekistan about the use of their territory for this purpose. They seem to be inclined to accept the NATO request. Even if they don't, the US should be able to find a way out.

18.What is really worrying the US is the dangers arising from a Pakistani non-co-operation in the operations against the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and its associates in the Pakistani territory. There are three issues of concern here. Firstly, the technical intelligence operations of the US' National Security Agency (NSA) from Pakistani territory. Musharraf had allowed the NSA to expand its presence and operations in the Pakistani territory. The NSA stations in Pakistan played a very important role in the location and capture of many of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. If a Nawaz Sharif-dominated Government orders the US to close down the NSA stations, the US could find alternatives in Afghanistan and on board US ships in the area.

19. Secondly, the tremendous expansion of US Human Intelligence operations in Pakistani territory. These operations are in the form of raising and running sources and interrogation of terrorism suspects arrested by the Pakistani intelligence. While the more important Al Qaeda operatives such as Abu Zubaidah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj al-Libi etc were flown out of Pakistan for interrogation, hundreds of less important ones were interrogated in Pakistan itself. Among those interrogated by the FBI in Pakistan itself were two retired nuclear scientists and some doctors with suspected contacts with Al Qaeda. A Nawaz Sharif-dominated Government may put an end to such HUMINT operations from Pakistani territory. This would create operational difficulties, which it would be difficult for the US to overcome.

20. Thirdly, the most important concern is that the new Governments in Islamabad and Peshawar may order the Pakistan Army to suspend all its military operations in the Pashtun belt,thereby adding to the difficulties of the US and other NATO forces in Afghanistan and increasing the possibility of another 9/11 in the US homeland and terrorist strikes in West Europe, including Denmark. Al Qaeda has been repeatedly warning of reprisals against Denmark for the cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet.

21. This is a danger which the US will not be prepared to accept. Till now, the US forces in Afghanistan have been avoiding exercising their right of hot pursuit into Pakistani territory when they were attacked by Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operating from Pakistani territory. The US has also been restricting its use of unmanned aircraft to strike at targets in Pakistan to the minimum unavoidable. It was afraid that by undertaking frequent operations in Pakistani territory, it might add to the political difficulties of Musharraf.

22. Hereafter, in the absence of co-operation from Pakistan, this factor will no longer inhibit US operations in the Pashtun belt. It will act against Al Qaeda and its associates in the Pakistani tribal belt with no holds barred---- hot pursuits, missile strikes from the air and across the border and, if necessary, even temporary occupation of Pakistani territory to destroy Al Qaeda infrastructure if the worst comes to the worst.

23. If the new Government stops its co-operation against Al Qaeda and its associates, the US will do whatever it considers to be necessary to neutralise threats to its nationals and troops and to prevent another 9/11 in the US homeland. It is learnt from reliable Pakistani sources that this was the message which Mr.Negroponte and Mr.Boucher conveyed to some of their Pakistani interlocutors.

24. Mr.Nawaz Sharif has a short memory. Otherwise, he would remember that in August, 1998, the Clinton Administration ordered Cruise missile strikes from its ships on Al Qaeda camps in Afghan territory in retaliation for the explosions outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. The missiles flew through Pakistani air space. The Clinton Administration did not take the prior permission of the Government of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, which was then in power, because it distrusted him. Gen.Anthony Zinni, the then Commander of the US Central Command, transited through Islamabad, his transit halt coinciding with the firing of the missiles. Just before the missiles were fired, he called Gen.Jehangir Karamat, the then Chief of the Army Staff, to the airport and told him that Cruise missiles were on the way and that Pakistan need not worry about them and should not mistake them for possible Indian missiles.
25. More such unilateral strikes by the US on Al Qaeda and Neo Taliban targets in Pakistani territory are likely if the new Government avoids co-operating with the US. (29-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Thursday, March 27, 2008



In response to some questions from the "Tibetan Times", a journal of the Tibetan diaspora, I have sent the following comments:

"We have been seeing the third freedom struggle in Tibet since the Communists came to power in China. The first freedom struggle was crushed by the Chinese in the 1950s, resulting in the flight of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and a large number of Tibetan refugees to India in 1959. The second freedom struggle of a short duration in 1989 was also crushed by the Chinese. Now, we are seeing the third since March 10,2008. The world was not fully informed of the facts of the previous two freedom struggles because of poor communications. The world has been aware of the third freedom struggle from the moment it started, thanks to the Internet and mobile telephones. The whole world is watching the brave Tibetans fighting for their freedom on the TV screen and in the Internet.. As a result, there is greater public sympathy now. Governments have to be cautious and cannot openly take a stand of supporting the freedom struggle. Their open support is confined to calling for a dialogue between His Holiness and the Chinese. But, there is a lot more that the civil societies of democratic countries can do than what they are doing---like condemning the military suppression of the freedom struggle, calling for an international enquiry into the violation of the human rights of theTibetans, demanding that international lawyers be allowed to defend the hundreds of Tibetans arrested by the Chinese, that the UN Secretary-General appoint a Special Rapporteur on Tibet to monitor the situation there and report to the Secretary-General. etc. The Tibetans also should voice these demands. It is not advisable to boycott the Olympic Games. Instead the Olympic Games and the passage of the Olympic torch before the games through various countries should be taken advantage of to draw the attention of the internationalcommunity to the state of affairs in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and even in the Han areas of China.. It will be unwise for the Tibetan diaspora abroad to indulge in acts of violence. Instead, they should adopt Gandhiji's method of a non-violent agitation. They should also peacefully observe the day of the passage of the flame through various countries as a day of mourning for those killed in Tibet,Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai and as a day of solidarity with the freedom struggle.Parallel to the Olympic flame, the Tibetan diaspora should carry through various countries, the flame of Tibetan freedom.His Holiness should issue an appeal to the conscience of mankind and to all civil societies to see that the flame of Tibetan rights is not extinguished. China is facing in Tibet a situation similar to what the USSR had faced in the Baltic States. Just as the Baltic States emerged independent despite the brutal suppression by the Soviets, so too the Tibetans will emerge independent. Independence is in their destiny. It cannot be denied or stopped. Budapest--1956, Prague--1968,Warsaw--- 1980, Kabul-- 1988, Baghdad---2003, Lhasa---2008. The lesson of history is that brute military force cannot suppress a people. It is time for the Chinese leadership to learn from history."

(A keynote speech delivered by the writer on March 26,2008, at an international seminar on INDIA-SOUTHEAST ASIA: STRATEGICCONVERGENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY organised from March 26 to 28,2008, by the CENTRE FOR SAARC STUDIES of the Andhra University, Visakhapattnam (Vizag) )

In recent years, the expression 'strategic' to characterise relations between nations has been used somewhat widely and somewhatloosely. The characterisation ' strategic relationship' has certain defining connotations. Firstly, there is a connotation in time----strategic asagainst tactical,long-term as against short-term and enduring as against ephemeral.Secondly, it is a relationship based on perceptions ofcommon interests and not on perceptions of mutual utility. Thirdly, it is a multi-dimensional relationship with many points offocus----political, economic, mutual security, ideological affinity etc. Fourthly, a strategic relationship is a quid pro quo relationship and notone based on feelings of charity or benevolence.

2.It is often said that India has no strategic culture and that strategic thinking does not go into its policy-making. This is wrong. Thedecision of free India's founding fathers to create a genuinely democratic state in India despite the constraints likely to be imposed bydemocracy on its economic development was itself the result of strategic thinking. The evolution of India's domestic as well as externalpolicies has greatly benefited from the vision and long-term thinking of its past political leadership and policy-makers---political as well asbureaucratic. India today is toasted as an emerging power, a power to be reckoned with in policy-making at present and in future. Thefoundations for this emergence were laid by the visions of its past policy-makers. A nation and a power without a strategic culture andthinking drifts. India has never been a drifting nation or power. It is a nation which knows where it wants to go and how to go there.

3.Since its independence in 1947, democratic India has had a succession of Prime Ministers. Some of them were in power only for a shortwhile. Hence, their impact on policy-making was of only limited significance. There were others, who stayed in power longer, and hence,were able to make significant contributions to strategic thinking and policy-making. Through his policy of non-alignment, Jawaharlal Nehruenabled India to play an important role in the global arena despite its then limited economic and military potential. During the initial Cold Waryears, developing and non-aligned India played a more influential role in the world stage than a militarily and economically strong China hasbeen able to do today. Nehru proved that a moral stature for a nation is as important as a military or an economic stature. Power projectionand assertion of national interests in India's immediate neighbourhood were the defining characteristics of the legacy of Indira Gandhi, RajivGandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh imparted new thinking to policy making and underlined theeconomic dimension of policy-making---whether internal or external--- and gave a new geographic focus to India's policy-makers.

4. To Narasimha Rao, who was the Prime Minister between 1991 and 1996, should go the credit for enlarging the geographic orientation ofIndia's external policy. He took India's policy-makers out of the morass of South Asia where they had got stuck for some years andbeckoned them to look to South-East and Central Asia as new playing fields for India of the future. He similarly took India out of the morassof its Arab-centric Look West policy and beckoned India's policy-makers to look to Iran as a compatible power of the future. His perceptionthat there was more in common between secular India and Shia Iran than between secular India and an increasingly Wahabised Arab worldlaid the foundation for his Look to Iran policy.

5. Since Narasimha Rao gave his Look East orientation to India's external policy, its evolution has passed through three phases. During thefirst phase between 1992 and 1998, the new orientation was welcomed by the countries of the region, but their welcome was tinged withskepticism as to whether the new orientation would be ephemeral or enduring. Despite this understandable skepticism, there was progressin the political and security-related fields. India got increasingly associated with the ASEAN and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF). The neworientation took place at a time when Singapore, a small State, was facing increasing difficulties in finding space and facilities for thetraining of its Armed Forces. It was also looking for opportunities for joint exercises for its Armed Forces. They were, of course, exercisingwith their counterparts in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand, but they wanted to widen their experience in the Asian context.

6.The new orientation also took place at a time when Malaysia, under the Prime Ministership of Dr.Mahatir Miohammad, had embarked on anexercise for the diversifcation of its external sources of procurement of military equipment---particularly for its Air Force. It showedincreasing interest in the procurement of Russian planes and other equipment. It wanted to tap and did tap on India's long experience withSoviet and Russian military equipment in matters such as the reliability of the equipment, training in the use of the equipment, assistancefor their maintenance etc. Boris Yeltsin's Russia too encouraged Malaysia to look up to India for the handling and maintenance of theRussian equipment.

7. While the political and security-related dimensions of the strategic relationship thus recorded some progress during the first phase,disappointment was in store in respect of the economic dimension. The initiation of the Look East policy by Narasimha Rao coincided withthe initiation of economic reforms. Well-calibrated liberalisation and globalisation became the defining charateristics of the new economicpolicy. India's Look East policy created some excitement in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand more because of its likely economic benefitsfor South-East Asia than for any other reason.Singapore was already enjoying an infrastructure bonanza in China. Singapore and Malaysiaentertained high hopes of a similar bonanza from an investor-friendly India. Thailand was looking for co-operation in the field of inland waterprawn culture, which was taken up on a big scale in Tamil Nadu.

8. Their expectations were belied. Malaysia's hopes for big orders for road and port development did not materialise. Singapore's efforts toassociate itself, along with the Tatas, with projects for the modernisation of India's civil aviation infrastructure were rebuffed. The ambitiousproject for inland prawn culture was given up due to fears of its likely adverse impact on agricultural production. As a result of theirdisappointing experience, they concluded that India was not China and that India had miles to go before it could ever catch up with China.In their perception, whereas in China decisions at the party and Government headquarters in Beijing were implemented without reservationsand foot-dragging at all subordinate levels, in India there was foot-dragging at many levels, thereby making implementation a painfully tardyprocess.

9. China was not a factor during this first phase. No conflict of interest between India and China in this region was in the horizon. Thewelcome accorded by the countries of the region to India's Look East policy was not influenced by any negative perceptions of China intheir mind. They welcomed India for its own sake and not as a possible counter to China.

10. The second phase was marked by India''s nuclear tests of 1998 and the adverse reactions to them in the rest of the world, particularly inthe US and China. The reactions from China were particularly virulent as a result of the action of Shri Vajpayee in citing India's concerns over the Chinese nuclear capability as the reason for the tests in a secret letter addressed to the then US President Mr.Bill Clinton. TheWhite House leaked out the contents of this letter to an American newspaper thereby creating embarrassment for Shri Vajpayee. Concernsover the Indian nuclear tests and China's adverse reaction to them brought a pause in the developing relations between India and the majorcountries in South-East Asia except Singapore, which took them in its stride and did not allow them to affect its positive perception of India.Fortunately, this pause was of a short duration and was overtaken by the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US.

11. The third phase of the evolution started on 9/11. Of all the countries in Asia, barring Israel, India has the richest experience incounter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. Before 9/11, the countries of the region----even Singapore--- avoided any co-operation with India inthe field of counter-terrorism lest they get involved in what they saw as the India-Pakistan slanging match on this issue. They also viewedIndian evidence of the involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies and Army in fomenting terrorism against India and regarding thepresence and activities of various jihadi terrorist groups from Pakistani territory as partly motivated propaganda. India was not takenseriously on the subject of terrorism.

12. This perception changed dramatically after 9/11. As evidence started coming in to show that the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US hadbeen planned and co-ordinated from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region by Al Qaeda and its associates, thereby corroborating what India hadbeen saying about the role of Pakistan in fomenting jihadi terrorism, Indian evidence was treated with greater respect than before 9/11.The discovery of some sleeper cells of the pro-Al Qaeda Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in the beginning of2002 and the Bali explosion of October,2002, further strengthened the credibility of India and its terrorism experts. After 9/11, Indiansecurity and terrorism analysts became much valued participants in fora such as those of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia-Pacific(CSCAP) and their views and assessments were heard with attention.

13. In the field of counter-terrorism, India acquired a further value addition when evidence emerged from the interrogation of Al Qaedaterrorists arrested in different countries that Al Qaeda was planning a major act of maritime terrorism in one of the choke points in order tocause a major disruption of global trade and energy supplies. The Malacca Strait being the most important choke point in this region, itsprotection from possible depredations of terrorists and pirates became a subject of great priority not only for the member-countries of theASEAN, but also for China, Japan, Australia and the US.

14. As this threat loomed large, apart from the US, India was the only country with the required naval capability to prevent it. As the US Navywas preoccupied with providing naval and logistics support to its operations in Afghanistan and subsequently in Iraq from 2003, it was not ina position to divert adequate resources for maritime security in this region. The Indian Navy and Indian experts in maritime security andmaritime counter-terrorism started playing an active role in maritime security. In 2002, the Indian Navy was even requested by the US toescort the ships of the US Navy as they transited the waters of this region on their way to the Persian Gulf area from the Pacific and back.Before 9/11, India's security related co-operation with the countries of this region was more static in the form of assistance in training, jointexercises and equipment maintenance. After 9/11, the co-operation became more active in the form of increased patrolling, co-ordinatedpatrolling with the navies of some countries etc.

15. The US not only nudged India into playing a more active role in maritime security in this region, but also encouraged other countries ofthe region to drop their reservations and concerns over an increased Indian role. For the first time since India initiated its Look East policyin the early 1990s , China started showing signs of unease over the increased activities of the Indian Navy in the waters of this region. Itsunease was further aggravated by the interest evinced by the US in godfathering an active role for India. The co-ordinated operations by thenavies of India, the US and Australia for providing disaster and humanitarian relief after the Tsunami strike in Indonesia and Sri Lanka inDecember,2004, was seen by China as possibly heralding an informal naval alliance in the making. Its concerns were further enhanced bythe talk of a concert of democracies involving India, the US, Japan and Australia. The joint naval exercise by the Navies of India, the US,Japan, Singapore and Australia in September,2007, in the Bay of Bengal was another development of major concern to Beijing. It startedtaking seriously some articles appearing in the media in India and elsewhere about an Asian NATO in the making.

16. Beijing started strongly suspecting that the emerging Indo-US naval co-operation in the South-East Asian region and what it saw as theUS-sponsored role of India in maritime security, with specific reference to maritime counter-terrorism, were actually meant to counter thegrowing Chinese power behind a facade of co-ooperation in counter-terrorism. India's repeated attempts to allay these concerns have notmet with success. Fortunately, till now, China has not allowed these concerns to affect its bilateral relations either with India or the US orthe ASEAN countries. The ASEAN countries too have not allowed China's concerns to affect their developing strategic relations with India.

17.The latest phase has also seen the economic dimension of the strategic relationship acquiring greater importance than in the first twophases. According to the Directorate-General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), Kolkata, India's exports to the ASEANcountries increased from US$ 10.41 billion in 2005-06 to US$ 12.56 billion in 2006-07, a growth of 20.67 per cent. India's imports from theASEAN countries increased from US$ 10.88 billion in 2005-06 to US$ 18.08 billion in 2006-07, a growth of over 66 per cent. The ASEAN has ahuge trade balance of about US $ six billion in its favour. The ASEAN accounted for 9.49 per cent of India's imports and 9.95 per cent ofIndia's exports during 2006-07. This figure is likely to grow up further after the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the ASEAN isfinalised and implemented, hopefully later this year. The total value of the two-way trade amounted to US $ 30.64 billion , which was almostequivalent to the total value of India's two-way trade with China. At the 6th India-ASEAN summit in Singapore in November 2007, Indiaproposed to enhance the bilateral trade with the ASEAN countries to a target of US$ 50 billion by 2010.

18.Bilateral trade between Singapore and India grew by 31 per cent in 2006-07 to US $ 11.49 billion from US$ 8.7 billion in 2005-06. Indianfirms have started looking to the Singapore Stock Exchange for fund raising and listing. The SGX became a shareholder in the BombayStock Exchange in March 2007. 659,000 Indian tourists visited Singapore in 2006, the fourth largest national group.Singapore was the thirdlargest foreign investor in India in 2006-07, investing over US$ 321 million. Singapore is an increasingly valued investor in the real estatesector in South India. By June 2007, about 2,000 Indian companies had set up offices in Singapore.In 2005, India and Singapore signed aComprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA), an integrated package comprising a free trade agreement, a bilateral agreementon investment promotion and protection, an improved double taxation avoidance agreement and a work programme for cooperation inhealthcare, education, media, tourism, customs, e-commerce, intellectual property, and science and technology.

19.Malaysia came next.The total trade with Malaysia increased 88.2 per cent from US$ 3.57 billion in 2005-06 to US$ 6.72 billion in 2006-07.The trade balance was heavily in favour of Malaysia----with India's imports from Malaysia amounting to US$ 5.28 billion, while exports wereUS$ 1.44 billion. Malaysia is stated to be among the top 10 foreign investors in India, but exact figures are not available. Indonesia wasthe third with a total two-way trade of US$ 6.21 billion in 2006-07, a growth of over 44 per cent from US$ 4.3 billion in 2005-06. But theinvestment flow from Indonesia has been insignificant.Thailand was the fourth with a total two-way trade of US $ 3.14 billion in 2006-07 asagainst US $ 1.22 billion in 2000-01. The investment flows have been in the reverse direction with increasing Indian investments in the gemsand jewellery sector in Thailand.Vietnam was the fifth with a total trade of US$ 1.15 billion in 2006-07, an increase of 40.26 per cent overthe previous year. This included Indian exports of US$ 982.5 million and imports of US$ 171.53 million.

20.Myanmar was the sixth .The total trade increased from US$ 636.66 million in 2005-06 to US $ 917.15 million in 2006-07, a growth of 44.1per cent. India's exports were worth US$ 139.2 million and imports US$ 777.95 million.India is Myanmar's fourth largest trading partner afterThailand, China and Singapore. It is also Myanmar's second largest export market after Thailand. . India is involved in several river andland-based projects in Myanmar such as the reconstruction of the Settwe port in the Arakan area, the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transportproject, the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road project and the India-Myanmar gas pipeline project. In this upswing of trade and economicrelations between India and the ASEAN countries during the third phase, the Philippines, Brunei, Laos and Cambodia have not figuredsignificantly. The reasons for this are not clear.

21.More than two million tourists from India travelled to the ASEAN countries during 2006-07 in comparison to 280,000 ASEAN tourists whotravelled to India. A study of the impact of terrorism on tourist traffic to South-East Asia made in November,2002, showed that while the Baliexplosion of October,2002, resulted in large-scale cancellations of hotel and air bookings from the West and Australia, there were very fewcancellations from India. The lesson: Indian tourists are not as nervous and panicky as their Western counterparts and , hence, are moredependable as a source of revenue.

22.. India's relations with Myanmar are in a class apart. The underlying motive is partly to benefit from its energy resources, partly to enlistits co-operation in counter-insurgency in India's North-East and partly not to leave the field open to China. However, despite Indianassistance to Myanmar in various fields including in respect of the sale of Myanmar's much-needed military equipment, India's politicalinfluence over the military junta is not comparable to that of China.One saw it in the aftermath of the widespread demonstrations by themonks and students all over Myanmar last year. The Junta was more amenable to suggestions from China to moderate its suppression andto be more sensitive to international concerns than it would have been to similar suggestionbs from India. In respect of the exploitation ofthe gas reserves in the Arakan area too, the Junta has been more attentive to the needs of China than of India. The political influence,which India has been able to build up in Myanmar, has not been commensurate with what it has done for the Junta.

23.More than the development of economoc and security-related ties, what is significant is the change in the mental attitude of the ASEANcountries to India. Nowhere is this change more striking than in their perceptions of the Indian educational system. In the 1970s, IndiraGandhi, the then Prime Minister, used to get reports about the sarcastic remarks being made by Mr.Lee Kuan-Yew, the then Singapore PrimeMinister, about the Indian educational system. He felt that India would never rise as a major power because of what he viewed as its pooreducational system. He had even advised his Ministry of Health not to allow Indian medical graduates to work in Singapore. Today, theASEAN countries---even Singapore--- have been highly impressed by the quality of the Indian education. The Manipal University of Karnatakahas been invited to set up a campus in Malaysia to train Malaysian students in medicine. They do the first two years of their medicaleducation in the University's campus in Malaysia and then come to Manipal for the final two years. Singapore has been keen to benefit fromthe high quality of the education in the Indian Institutes of Technology and Management.

24. In the post-9/11 world, they have also been impressed by the fact that the Indian educational system has not only been producingprofessionals of very high quality, but have also been producing more Muslim moderates than extremists. It is true that a small number ofMuslim products of the Indian educational system have gravitated towards pro-Al Qaeda organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and theHarkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), but there is no instance as yet of any product of the Indian educational system drifting towards Al Qaeda. Inthe UK, about six Indian-origin Muslims were suspected to have links with Al Qaeda, but all of them were products of the British educationalsystem. Can the South-East Asian countries learn something from this?

25. In February 2005, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College had released a study made for it by Shri Amit Gupta, anIndian scholar titled "The US-India Relationship: Strategic Partnership or Complementary Interests? " Shri Amit Gupta was a VisitingProfessor in the US Air Force War College. His study referred to the positive aspects of the Indian educational system and suggested thatthe US should encourage the countries of this region to look up to the Indian educational system and, at the same time, help India in furtherdeveloping it.

26. While the strategic relations with the countries of this region have been expanding at variable speeds, there are landmines. Theincreasing alienation of the Malaysian citizens of Indian origin as seen during the demonstrations of last year is one such landmine. TheIndian-origin citizens have grievances due to economic and religious reasons. The economic grievances arise from the continued prioritygiven to the Malays under the Bhumiputra policy and the consequent failure of the Indian-origin community to have their due share of thenational cake. The religious grievances arise from the perceived failure of the Government and the municipal authorities to heed theirprotests over the demolition of many temples on the ground that they had been constructed illegally on Government-owned or municipalland. The Hindus are particularly aggrieved over the fact that while no such action has been taken against mosques, which were similarlyconstructed without proper authorisation, the demolition action has been directed only against their temples. If the past irregularities of themosques could be regularised post facto, why not the past irregularities of the temples? The unhappiness and grievances of the Hindus are having their echo in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. This could come in the way of further development of relations between India andMalaysia in the absence of a greater sensitivity by the Malaysian authorities to the grievances of the Hindus, which many in India view aslegitimate.

27. The second landmine is the growing Chinese perception that India and the US are acting in tandem in helping each other in furtheringtheir respective strategic interests in this region. Beijing continues to see a China angle to this Indo-US co-operation despite repeateddenials by India and the US. Till now, the countries of this region have not allowed their policies to be influenced by the Chinese concerns.Will they continue to do so in future?
28. Not only China, but even sections of the policy-making circles in Malaysia and Indonesia view with some mental reservation USassessments and projections of security threats to this region----particularly threats to maritime security. They have a lurking suspicion thatthere is an ulterior motive behind what they see as an over-projection of the threat perceptions by the US. How to make India's strategicco-operation with the US in this region compatible with its growing strategic relationship with the countries of this region and even withChina. That is a question, which needs to be addressed by this seminar as well as by our policy-makers.(26-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudieas, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Sunday, March 23, 2008


"The influence of Christianity and the devotion of their Catholics to the Pope remain as strong as ever. Despite their constant demonisation of the Dalai Lama, he is still a highly venerated figure not only in Tibet, but also among the Buddhists of their Mongolia. The influence of Islam amongst the Muslims of not only Xinjiang, but also other areas of China is equally strong. Objective observers admit that Tibet and Xinjiang have made tremendous economic progress during the last 20 years, but this has not weakened the hold of religion on the people. It is said that in the interior areas of Tibet, if a peasant is offered a choice of either an electronic gadget or a picture of the Dalai Lama as a gift, he would without hesitation choose the latter.........If one day there is serious instability in China and if its society comes unstuck, it will, most probably, be not due to political, economic or social causes, but due to the State continuing to come in the way of the religious and spiritual yearnings of the people."
---Extract from an article written by me after a visit to China in May,2002. The article titled "CHINA: God As Threat To National Security" was carried by the South Asia Analysis Group on July 11,2002, at

Even though no new major incident of violence has been reported from Greater Tibet since the night of March 18,2008, the Chinese continue to make large-scale arrests and send troop reinforcements to Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai in the face of calls by pro-independence activists in Greater Tibet and in the diaspora abroad not to allow the Olympic flame to be taken through Tibet to the top of the Everest. The Chinese were planning to stage this Everest spectacular to show that they have pacified Tibet once and for all . Through their uprising inside Greater Tibet since March 10,2008, the Tibetan youth, monks and others have proved them wrong.

2. Despite the loss of face already suffered by them, the Chinese have reiterated their determination to take the flame to the top of the Everest and from there to Beijing. The only modification they have made in their plan is not to allow foreign tourists and journalists to watch the spectacular. The event will be covered only by the Chinese media and by some pro-Beijing journalists from other countries.

3. While the Chinese have released details of the proposed passage of the flame through other countries,they have not releasesd similar details of its proposed passage through China, including Tibet. As such, one does not know when it will reach Tibet, when it will be carried to the top of the Everest and when it will be taken out of Tibet. However, it is noticed they have banned foreigners from going to the foothills of the Himalayas till May 10. Nepal has reportedly imposed a similar ban at their request till May 10. It is,therefore, likely that the flame will be in Tibet towards the end of April and the beginning of May.One could expect a fresh flare-up of incidents during this period. The Chinese do not want to be taken by surprise this time. They are increasing their troop deployments all over Greater Tibet and making preventive arrests. They are likely to deploy more troops on their borders with India and Nepal. India should also see that the Tibetan refugees do not go to the border areas and provoke a confrontation with the Chinese border troops.

4. The current tension in Greater Tibet and Xinjiang has many lessons for the Chinese. The first is the serious deficiencies in their intelligence agencies and physical security apparatus. They did not have any inkling of the uprising being planned by the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet.They were taken by surprise by the revival of Uighur jihadi sleeper cells in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Three supporters of the Uighur jihadi movement managed to hoodwink their physical security personnel at Urumqi airport on March 7,2008, three days before the uprising in Lhasa, and allegedly smuggle into a Beijing-bound aircraft an inflammable liquid concealed inside a can of soft drinks. Fortunately, the security staff on board the flight detected them and had them overpowered before they could cause a fire.

5.Some years ago, a senior Chinese leader was reported to have told a foreign interlocutor that he was concerned that while the Chinese intelligence was well-informed on developments outside China, it was not equally well-informed about developments inside China. The events in Greater Tibet and Xinjiang prove that this state of affairs continues. The Chinese have been very confident that they will be able to provide effective security during the Olympics. One can only hope that their confidence is well-placed.

6. A message, which comes out loud and clear from Greater Tibet, is that despite being away from Tibet for nearly 50 years now, the Dalai Lama continues to command the respect of the Tibetan people inside China. Chinese attempts to demonise him and project him as the problem have not succeeded. A vast majority of the Tibetan people in China continue to look up to him with undiminished reverence as their political and spiritual leader. Continued demonisation of His Holines by Chinese Government and party leaders would prove counter-productive and make the situation worse. It is time to stop their unrelenting abuse of the Dalai Lama and re-establish their lines of communications with him.

7. His Holiness has expressed his readiness to visit China, if invited, and meet President Hu Jintao. The Chinese are unlikely to agree to this in the near future----at least not until the Olympics are over. In the immediate aftermath of the uprising, the Chinese would not like to project a soft image of themselves. They had seen how sudden policy swings----partcularly in political matters---- by Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin brought about the disintegration of the USSR.

8. It is in their interest to seek the co-operation of the Dalai Lama and to benefit from the respect and influence commanded by him among the Tibetans in order to seek reconciliation with the Tibetan masses. A stoppage of their anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric would help them not only internally in Greater Tibet, but also externally in the international community. Unfortunately, the Chinese authorities continue to suffer from a delusion that if they wait till the death of the Dalai Lama and manage to manipulate the process of nomination of his successor, their problems in Tibet would be over. This will not happen. One saw how the appeals issued by the Panchen Lama nominated by them did not make any impact on the uprising. Any unwise step by them to nominate their own Dalai Lama would only further radicalise the Tibetan youth and make them even more uncontrollable than they are now.

9. The third message from the uprising is that by solely relying on their security forces and on the Han settlers for strengthening their hold on Greater Tibet, they have created for themselves a situation similar to what the Soviets had created for themselves in the Baltic States. They forcibly incorporated them into the USSR and tried to change the demographic complexion of the States by settling a large number of Russians----many of them ex-servicemen-- in the Baltic States. They got caught in a vicious circle. The more the suppression, the more the people's anger. The more the people's anger, the more the suppression. The more the Russian settlers, the more the hatred for them. The more the hatred for them, the more the Russian settlers. Ultimately, the Soviets had to watch helplessly as the three Baltic States threw off the Soviet yoke and re-gained their independence. A similar situation has developed in Greater Tibet and could develop in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

10. If the Chinese are wise, they would take note of the growing divide between the Hans and the sons of the soil not only in Greater Tibet, but also in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Since the international community recognises Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as parts of China, it cannot object to Chinese citizens----whatever be their ethnic background---- migrating to other parts of China and settling down there. But the state-sponsored resettlement of Hans from outside in order to reduce the Tibetans to the status of Red Indians in their own homeland will not be accepted by the Tibetans and by the world of today. One has seen how the Israeli policy of settling Jewish people in the Palestinian territory under their occupation has boomeranged on them. It is time for China to reverse this policy.

11.Angry sections of Tibetan youth point out that while the Chinese showed accommodation to the people of Hong Kong and Macao and are prepared to show similar accommodation to the people of Taiwan, they are not prepared for any accommodation with the Tibetans. Their stand is: "This is all (Tibetan autonomous region as presently constituted) that we can give. Take it or leave it."

12. The Chinese refusal to consider any proposal to grant to Tibet a status similar to what they have given to Hong Kong and what they are prepared to grant to Taiwan arises from their fear that a genuinely autonomous Tibet will look up to India for inspiration and guidance and not to Beijing. The Chinese fear the example of the Indian democracy and India's moral stature more than its military power. Hence, the Hong Kong formula for Tibet may be a non-starter. One has to think of other options, which will satisfy the ethnic and religious aspirations of the Tibetans and at the same time, will be reassuring to the Chinese. There is a need for a debate as to what could be the other options for Tibet. (24-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Friday, March 21, 2008



The world-wide demonstrations of Tibetans of all ages against China and the uprisings in Greater Tibet since March 10,2008. have come asthe culmination of a long debate in Dharamsala and among Tibetan refugees all over the world, including India, over the wisdom of HisHoliness the Dalai Lama's continued adherence to his Middle Path policy. By Middle Path, he meant autonomy and not independence and anon-violent struggle to achieve that objective. By autonomy, he meant on the Hong Kong model of one country, two systems and not thepresent Chinese model of total integration and Han colonisation in the name of autonomy. He was seeking a dialogue with the Chineseleadership in the hope of thereby making his Middle Path a reality.

2. Tibetan youth organisations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), formed in 1970 under the blessings of His holiness, and StudentsFor A Free Tibet went along with him till 2003 despite having serious reservations as to whether the policy would work and about theinsincerity of the Chinese. The action of Shri A.B.Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, in agreeing to Tibet being described as a part ofChina in a statement issued during his visit to China in 2003 set off alarm bells ringing in the Tibetan community abroad as well as in GreaterTibet.

3. Large sections of the Tibetan youth felt that even while pretending to keep the door open for a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the Chinesewere undermining his political and spiritual authority, encouraged by the silence of the Indian authorities. While they continued to respectand venerate the Dalai Lama as their religious and spiritual leader, the Tibetan youth started looking upon him as politically naive. Theybegan stepping up pressure on him for giving up the Middle Path policy.

4. The disenchantment of the Tibetan youth over the policies of His Holiness and their concern over the perceived headway being made bythe Chinese in strengthening their occupation of Greater Tibet was reflected in the seventh session of the Tibetan Parliament held atDharamsala in March, 2004. It adopted a private member's resolution which called for a review of the policy of the 'Middle Path' after ayear, if the Chinese failed to start formal negotiations with His Holiness to solve the Tibetan problem. The elder members of the Tibetancommunity criticised the resolution as disrespectful to the Dalai Lama and as tending to undermine his political authority.

5. An editorial on this subject in the September,2004, issue of the journal of the TYC said: "The on-going Middle Path policy came into beingafter the then Chinese supreme leader Deng-Xiaoping set the precondition that we should abandon the demand for independence. For thelast 24 years, our leadership has been sincerely trying to hammer out a compromise solution but from the Chinese side, there has alwaysbeen deceit, double-dealing and delaying tactics so that we have not even managed to make the beginning of a meaningful dialogue. Manythinking Tibetans, Tibetan supporters and China-watchers have now come to honestly conclude that the Chinese have no intention toconduct negotiations. They are only biding time for the Dalai Lama to pass away and in the meantime evade international pressure andcondemnation by indulging in the periodical delegation diplomacy. It is vitally important that we Tibetans should not fall prey to theirdevious ploys. Another important matter to be taken into consideration is the so-called Chinese 'White Paper' of May last. With the finality ofthe tone and tenor of that document, all our hopes for a negotiated settlement on the lines of the One-Nation-Two-Systems theory of HongKong and Macao or a genuine autonomy have been dashed irrevocably. The only choice given to the Tibetans is to accept the arrangementunder Tibet Autonomous Region as the best one and return. This, surely, is not the answer to the Middle Path! The Chinese 'White Paper', inone go, has fully rejected what the Tibetan government has been trying to achieve during the last nearly 25 years through that policy.Therefore, a rethinking on the part of our leadership is called for whether we like it or not. The present resolution is nothing new orsurprising. In fact, the need to review the Middle Path policy has become more urgent and relevant after the issuance of the Chinese 'WhitePaper'."

6. The trend towards the radicalisation of the Tibetan youth and their disenchantment with theMiddle Path policy became pronounced asthe TYC came increasingly under the influence of American citizens of Tibetan origin. Tibetan youth, living in India, paid heed to the wordsand advice of the Dalai Lama even while criticising his Middle Path policy. They went along with his advice against any attempt to sabotagethe Olympics even while taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the Olympics for drawing attention to their cause. They continedto respect the authority of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and political leader.

7. But, the Americans of Tibetan origin, who had migrated to the US from India and obtained US citizenship under a special dispensation ofthe US Immigration Department, which granted the US citizenship to 1000 Tibetan refugees, came increasingly under the influence ofanti-China groups in the US, which egged them on to sabotage the Olympic Games in order to embarrass China. This group was every vocalin the criticism of the Middle Path policy and started expressing its reservations over the wisdom of the policies of His Holiness on politicalissues. The Tibetan youth, who continue to be resident in India, shared His Holiness' gratitude to India for giving shelter to the refugees andlooking after them, but the youth, who had settled down in the US and obtained US citizenship, did not share this gratitude. Under the adviceor instigation of the anti-China groups in the US, it started itching for a confrontation with China even if this caused unhappiness in the DalaiLama and created difficulties for India.

8. The influence of American citizens of Tibetan origin on the policies and activities of the TYC increased after Mr Tsewang Rinzin, anAmerican citizen, was elected as the President of the Executive Committee of the TYC at its session held at Dharamsala last September,and Mr.Tenzin Yangdon, another US citizen, was elected as a member of the Executive Committee. Many Tibetans in India were surprised asto how Mr.Rinzin was elected as the President and who proposed his name and influenced his election. Some claim that even His Holinesswas surprised by his election. Since his election, he has been following the agenda of the anti-Beijing Olympics groups in the US, which wantto sabotage the Olympics in contravention of the wishes of His Holiness that nothing should be done to sabotage the Olympics.

9. The Dalai Lama's own views on the Olympics are as follows: "I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should begranted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold theprinciples of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing thesefreedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. Ihave come to know that many parliaments, individuals and non-governmental organisations around the globe are undertaking a number ofactivities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity. I would like to stateemphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt willgreatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producinga continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end."

10. As against this, Mr.Rinzin has warned of attempts to disrupt the passage of the Olympic torch and the Games itself. The "Wall StreetJournal" (March 20,2008) has quoted him as saying as follows: "This is a golden opportunity for our struggle." He is the son of a Tibetandriver in South India.He migrated to the US in 1993 and obtained US citizenship. Till his election last September, he was working in a bank in Portland/ Vancouver in northwest United States. He was also the President of the local chapter of TYC. Since his election, he has shiftedto Dharamsala, but his wife, also an American citizen of Tibetan origin, and their two children continue to live in the US.

11. In January last,the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women’s Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, the National DemocraticParty of Tibet, and the Students for a Free Tibet, India, issued a statement announcing the launching of a Tibetan People’s UprisingMovement (TPUM). They described it as " a global movement of Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet taking control of our political destiny byengaging in direct action to end China’s illegal and brutal occupation of our country. Through unified and strategic campaigns we will seizethe Olympic spotlight and shine it on China’s shameful repression inside Tibet, thereby denying China the international acceptance andapproval it so fervently desires.We call on Tibetans inside Tibet to continue to fight Chinese domination and we pledge our unwaveringsupport for their continued courageous resistance. " It called upon the international community to cancel the Beijing Olympics.

12. In February last, the TPUM is alleged to have held two training camps in Dharamsala for selected Tibetan youth in subjects such as theImportance of a Co-ordinated Movement, Contemporary Chinese Political Scenario, Strategy and Vision, the Situation inside Tibet, Olympicpolitics, Media and Messaging, Non-Violent Direct Action and Fund-Raising Strategy."

13.On March 10, the TPUM launched synchronised protests and demonstrations all over the world, including in Lhasa, to mark the 49thanniversary of the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet. The protests and demonstrations in Lhasa took a violent turn on March 14,2008. Oncoming to know of this, the Dalai Lama threatened to resign as the political leader of the community if the violence continued and alsocalled the office-bearers of the TYC to express to them his unhappiness over their activities.(21-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Thursday, March 20, 2008


According to latest reports, the Chinese security forces continue to make house-to-searches in Lhasa for suspected participants in the violent uprising of March,14,2008. The total number of arrests made so far is estimated at about 500.In addition to people without proper documents, the Chinese troops have also been rounding up those with photographs of the Dalai Lama in their houses, those unable to explain satisfactorily where they were on March 14 and those with bodily injuries.

2.Vehicles of the People's Armed Police have been moving round Lhasa with loudspeakers through which the people are reminded that it is a crime to keep photographs of the Dalai Lama ans asking those having his photographs to voluntarily surrender them. Those not surrendering the photos are warned of severe penal action against them.

3.With heavy troop deployments and a large number of arrests, the Chinese have the situation in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet fairly under control since the morning of March 15,2008. No major incident of violence has been reported from Tibet after March 15,2008. However, foreign tourists and journalists continue to be barred from Tibet and the trains to Lhasa are running practically empty. The only passengers are troop reinforcements being moved to Tibet.

4. Widespread and serious disturbances broke out in different towns and even in villages of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai on March 16 and they continued sporadically till the evening of March 18. As in Tibet, in these three provinces too which have large Tibetan population, the monks took the lead in protesting and were subsequently joined by students and other sections of the general population. There were, however, some qualitative differences between the disturbances of March 14 in Tibet and the subsequent disturbances in Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai.

5.Firstly, the disturbances in Tibet were largely confined to Lhasa, the capital. The rural areas were not much affected except for peaceful demonstrations by small groups of monks.In Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai, the disturbances were widespread and affected urban as well as rural areas. Secondly, there were a large number of anti-Han and anti-Hui attacks in Lhasa. In Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai, the anti-Han attacks were much smaller in number. Local officials and members of the security forces were the main targets of attacks at these three places and not Hans. There were raids by large groups of Tibetans, including many nomads on horse-back, on isolated and meagrely-staffed posts of the Army and the Police in these three places, the like of which one had not seen in Tibet.

6. There was also a difference in the slogans used by the demonstrators in Tibet and in the other three areas. In all the four places, one of the slogans praised the Dalai Lama and wished him a long life. Whereas in Tibet, another slogan called for independence for Tibet, one did not come across many slogans for independence in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. There were many slogans calling for democracy. The slogans used in these three provinces outside the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region also condemned the brutal suppression of the people of Tibet by the security forces after the uprising of March 14 in Lhasa.

7. On the basis of available evidence, it is possible to assess with a reasonable measure of conviction that whereas the uprising in Lhasa on March 14 had been pre-planned and well-orchestrated, the uprisings in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai were spontaneous outbursts of anger among the local Tibetans when news of the brutal suppression by the Chinese Army in Lhasa after March 14 reached these three provinces. One could also see that whereas the Tibetan Youth Congress, which calls for independence, had a greater influence on the minds of the Tibetan people in Tibet, particularly Lhasa, it does not have the same influence on the minds of the Tibetans in Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai.

8. These three provinces have also been quiet since the evening of March 18, with no major violent incidents reported since then. There are heavy troop deployments in all these three provinces and many arrests of suspected participants in the violent incidents. (20-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. e-mail: )

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Tibetan Youth Congress deserves credit for drawing the attention of the international community to the actual state of affairs in Tibetand to the continued violation of the human right of the Tibetan people by the Chinese. It is behind the current wave of demonstrations andprotests by Tibetans all over the world, including in Tibet and Sichuan. It has made the Tibetan people in Tibet and Sichuan rid themselvesof their fear complex and assert their rights in their homeland. 'Tibet for the Tibetans" is its policy. Even though very loyal and devoted tothe Dalai Lama, it respectfully differs from his policy of the "Middle Way". For it, there is no middle way between total independence andtotal servitude. It differs from His Holiness' policy of genuine autonomy and calls for total independence. It is not against the BeijingOlympics. It does not want to sabotage the Games. It says that the Olympics provides the Tibetans with a wonderful opportunity to drawattention to their unhappiness and aspirations. It feels that the Olympics provides a window of opportunity to the Tibetans to give strengthto their struggle for independence.

2. Among the legendary past leaders of the Tibetan Youth Congress is Mr.Lhasang Tsering, a well-known scholar, who has written andspoken extensively on Tibet---the present, the past and the future. He is in his late 40s. To understand the current developments relating toTibet, it is important to know the views of the Tibetan Youth Congress and those associated with it---either now or in the past. To serve thispurpose, I am reproducing below an article written by him in March 2000. (20-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )
A Case for Policy Review
By Lhasang Tsering, Former President of Tibetan Youth Congress

In my years of travelling around the world talking about Tibet, it has been my experience that, more often than not, the audience generallyconsist of people who are interested in Tibet and already know a great deal about Tibet. Many, in fact, turn out to be old friends and expertson Tibet. So a lot of the time it is like 'preaching to the converted'. Therefore, repeating basic facts about Tibet appears to be unnecessary and a waste of time. Nevertheless, one cannot help wondering howmany in any particular audience or how many of your readers are truly aware that never before 23 May 1951 - when a conquered anddefeated Tibetan government was forced to sign an unequal 'treaty' - the so-called "17 Point Agreement on Measures for the PeacefulLiberation of Tibet" - had Tibet ever surrendered its independence. Therefore, China's claim that 'Tibet has always been a part of China' hasno basis, whatsoever, in fact that Tibetan language - both spoken and written - have no relation whatsoever with Chinese. that Tibet has itsown National flag and National Anthem that while it is true various Chinese dynasties had on several occasions interfered in Tibetan affairs,it is equally true that various Tibetan kings and rulers had invaded China or otherwise exercised influence in Chinese affairs. On oneoccasion in 763 AD Tibetan troops even occupied Chang'an - the then Chinese capital - deposed the Chinese Emperor who was not friendlytowards the Tibetans and appointed the son of another branch of the royal family as Emperor ? that the traditional boundary between Tibetand China was demarcated by the Peace Treaty of 821 when it was decided that the two countries shall never interfere in each other'saffairs; believing that "Chinese shall be happy in the land of China and Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet." The text of this Treaty -containing these ancient words of wisdom - were carved on three stone pillars - one pillar each for the two capitals of Lhasa and Chang'anand the third pillar for the border, which was placed at a placed called Gugu Meru. The third stone pillar has so far not been found. But thetexts of the other two stone pillars have been compared by independent western and Tibetan scholars and have been found to match.? thatlong before the Mongols established the Yuan Dynasty in China in 1279; the Tibetans established a tribute relationship with the Mongols in1207 and thus averted a military invasion by Genghis Khan. The ties of the Mongols with Tibet not only pre-dated their conquest of China - it was an entirely separate relationship. The Mongols neverconsidered Tibet a Province of China. As such China's revised claim that 'Tibet has been a part of China since the Mongol rule over China'has no substance. That Tibet was recognised as an independent country during the Second World War, most importantly by China, USA andGreat Britain. This is evident from the fact that the US government had to send a mission to Lhasa in 1943 to request the Government of Tibet to permitthe Allies to send military aid through Tibet to help China in its war with Japan. Needless to say, this would not have been necessary if, asthe Chinese claim today, Tibet 'has always been an integral part of China'. As an independent country dedicated to the principles of peace,Tibet granted permission to the Allies to send only humanitarian assistance to China but no weapons of war. In retrospect, one cannot helpfeeling that Tibet is being punished today for its principled commitment to peace and for remaining neutral during the War.

More evidence can be listed to prove that Tibet was an independent country before the Communist Chinese invasion in 1949. However, foranyone willing to accept reason - the above facts should be sufficient.
First Things First:
I have sub-titled this article 'A Case for Policy Review' and not 'The Case for a Policy Review'. I have chosen this awkward construction for areason. Generally, when we talk about the need for a policy review on the issue of Tibet it is understood to mean a review of India's policyon Tibet. Or, in other contexts, the policy of the United Nations or the United States - among others. I am of the view that, first and foremost,it is the Tibetan people - especially the Tibetan Government-in-Exile - who must review the so-called 'Middle-Way' policy. This is the policythat must be changed - urgently - before we can call on other countries to review their policy on Tibet. For the past twenty years or more, wehave been confusing our own people and also our friends by first talking about 'settling for autonomy' and then of seeking 'association withChina' and now of working for 'genuine autonomy within China'. Of course, no one as yet to tell us who will define 'association', or 'autonomy'or 'genuine'. Under the circumstances one can only assume that it will be the Chinese, since they hold all the cards. In any case, as thingsstand now, there is no reason to believe that the Chinese even need to bother about defining these terms.

When speaking of 'autonomy' we need to take into consideration the fact that, as far as the Chinese are concerned, Tibetans are alreadysupposed to have 'autonomy'. The truncated half of Tibet - the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region which today the rest of the world knowsas 'Tibet' - as also other areas of Tibetan territory; have been labeled 'autonomous' one thing or another by the Chinese. So the Chinese maywell wonder what this offer of accepting 'autonomy' is all about when 'autonomy' is exactly what they think the Tibetans already have. It istrue the so-called autonomy the Tibetans are supposed to enjoy under Chinese rule is only in name. But what reason do we have to believethat the 'genuine autonomy' of the future - if ever there is to be one - will be any different ?

On the question of 'autonomy' another important factor to be born in mind is that the people inside Tibet are sick and tired of 'autonomy'with Chinese characteristics and they want no more of it - never. I believe the only hope for the Tibetan people and the survival of ourreligion, our culture and our land is the restoration of Tibetan independence. My reasons are simple and straightforward.

1. In the first place, I hold that the few Tibetans in exile do not have the mandate to change the goal. When we left Tibet - we did so with thesole purpose of continuing the struggle for independence. We also do not have the right to foreclose the options of future generations ofTibetans.

2. Secondly, I believe China's strategic, political and economic reasons for invading Tibet are far too important and that they will neverwillingly relinquish their hold on Tibet. They will certainly not be talked out of leaving Tibet and returning Tibet to the Tibetan people inwhatever shape or form.

3. It is all very well for us to call for negotiations with China, and I believe the various proposals put forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lamato the Chinese - in particular the 'Five-Point Peace Proposal' - are all well-intended. The problem is that the Communist dictatorship in Chinawill not respond favourably to any of these proposals. For them compromise is a sign of weakness and they will continue to expect anddemand further concessions.

4. What is more, at present China has no need to negotiate with the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. In all these years no one has yet to answerthis one simple question: Why should the Chinese talk to us ? Tibet is firmly under their control. No government in the world has the courageto question this. We are not a threat to their position in Tibet. Why then should the Chinese surrender to us any part of their complete,unquestioned and unchallenged control over Tibet?

5. But even if the impossible should happen and, for some temporary expedience, China should enter into an agreement with us - whatreason do we have to believe that China will abide by the terms of such an agreement ? None, whatsoever. Our bitter and bloody experiencehas been that China will not abide by the terms of any agreement once the purpose for which the agreement was signed has been served.This is exactly what China did with the so-called '17-Point Agreement'.

The reality is that China is playing for time and we are playing into their hands. Therefore, before we call on India to review its policy onTibet and before we can expect India and the world to support us - I believe it is absolutely necessary for us Tibetans to make up our mindsas to what it is we want. Having said this, I hasten to add, if I am wrong on the dismal picture I have painted above - no man will be happierthan I. As a matter of fact, in weaker moments, I hope and wish that I am wrong. That the Chinese will one day - and it better be soon - wakeup to the fact that they have committed untold atrocities in Tibet; that in the very first place they have no right to be in Tibet and that theTibetan people don't want them there; and apologise and leave Tibet.

But then the harsh reality of our tragic past and the harsher reality of the ever deteriorating situation in Tibet together remind me that theChinese are not going to leave Tibet. That we are not facing a multiple-choice problem. Indeed, that we are faced with a struggle for survival- a struggle for life and death where there are no choices. This is the brutal reality that the Tibetan people and the Tibetan Government must accept. The Chinese are not offering us any choices. It isnot a question of getting the 'right' proposal with the 'correct' wording into place.


On the question of India's policy on Tibet, I wish to make the case that today India has more at stake in the future of Tibet than even theTibetan people. And, therefore, India should review its Tibet policy regardless of what the Tibetan people decide to do. I hope I do not soundungrateful or even manipulative and/or provocative in saying this.

My reasons for believing that today India has more at stake in the future of Tibet than the Tibetan people are sincere and simple: For one,Tibet will never be free when in the first place freedom is no longer our goal. Even otherwise, much as we wish Tibet to be free; much as wewant and long for Tibet to be free - today we are faced with the real and urgent danger of the Tibetans disappearing as a people and as adistinct culture. After death there is no pain and certainly no need for freedom or for land - especially for a people who feed their dead tovultures. What use is environmental protection or human rights to the dead ?

On the other hand, India cannot and will not disappear as a nation. However, with the death of Tibet, India will be left with a wound extending from Ladakh in the West to Arunachal in the East - a woundextending through the entire Himalayan range - some 2,500 km - for which there will be no cure. I need not elaborate on the far-reachingimplications of such a wound, which will forever eat into India like a deadly cancer. After all, India has already had a foretaste of this woundfor the past four decades. The need to defend India's long and difficult borders with Tibet is a major burden on India's economy and anobstacle to socio-economic development in the country. For these and other reasons I cannot understand India's policy on Tibet.

If it were in India's interest to accept and concede that 'Tibet is an autonomous region of China' (this has been India's position on the statusof Tibet since Nehru's time) - for the Tibetan people this will not be less painful, but at least it will be comprehensible. After all, foreign policyis not merely the 'art of the possible' - foreign policy is made on the grounds of national self-interest - or at least the perception of nationalself-interest. That such perceptions are often misguided and mistaken is an entirely different issue.

The Way Ahead:

We now have two issues before us. One, for the Tibetan people to make a clear decision about our goal and our struggle. The second issueis for the people of India to make a firm and clear decision about India's long-term interest regarding Tibet. If India decides that it is inIndia's interest to see Tibet free - then the next step is for us together to decide what we are willing to do for our mutual interest. This is to say that Tibetans should stop passively appealing for help. At the same time India must stop merely pitying the Tibetan people. India must start an active partnership with the Tibetans. In so doing there must be a clear understanding on both sides that in theshort-term there will be a heavy price to pay and enormous sacrifices to be made. However, whatever the difficulty, we must never loose sight of two things: that the long-term rewards will be lasting and worthy of anysacrifice; and, more importantly, that the struggle for the independence of Tibet must never be given up because in the end this is aquestion of right and wrong. Victory is important but it is secondary to the fact that we are fighting an evil for the restoration of Truth,Justice and Freedom.

On the other hand, if as a result of an informed national debate India should decide that it is indeed in India's long-term interest to haveChina and not Tibet as her northern neighbour - then so be it. I, for one, will return to Tibet. As a boy I made myself one promise. If bydedicating my entire life to the struggle I cannot free my country from the clutches of the Chinese, then at the very least I will die in Tibet.

Of course, I will never forget my gratitude to India. The Tibetan people are forever indebted to India for two reasons: in the past for theDharma and today for Refuge. But the problem is that at this moment there just isn't enough awareness in India about events anddevelopments in Tibet and their implications for India to enable the Indian people to make an informed decision on this important anddifficult issue. I am aware India has many other pressing problems to worry about - from poverty and basic education to Kashmir andPakistan. However, focusing on these problems alone is not enough. Take, for example, the case of a person suffering from a seriousdisease as a result of which he is running a high fever. Would it be enough to worry only about the fever and to focus one's attention only onbringing the temperature down ? Wouldn't it be more important, at some point, to seek to cure the disease itself ? India's current economic problems have much to with thehuge cost of defending India's long and troubled frontier with Tibet. Even in the case of the thorny problem in Kashmir and with Pakistan - it is not exactly a secret that China has been supplying Pakistan withweapons, military know-how and funding. Without China's control over Tibet the logistics of sending weapons to Pakistan will become analtogether different problem. A glance at any map is enough to see that the Karakorum Highway runs through Tibet to Pakistan.

Moreimportantly, when China no longer controls Tibet; helping Pakistan will become an altogether different priority. The level of ignorance andmisunderstanding about Tibet in India was evident during the escape of the 17th Karmapa to India. It was painful for us to read in certainsections of the Indian press; reports and letters suggesting that the Tibetan refugees in India are a liability and a security risk to India. There still seems to be speculation that the presence of the 17th Karmapa is a hindrance to India's relations with China.

The long-term strategic importance of Tibet to India should be evident even to those who wish to sacrifice everything on the alter of'friendship' with China. The presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile; and to a lesser extent the rest ofthe Tibetan refugee community, is at the very least a bargaining factor India can use in its dealings with China. The same is now true ofsuch a prominent figure as the 17th Karmapa. Even at the level of individual Tibetan refugees, it is not known and, therefore, not appreciated that Tibetan blood has been shed along with India's bravest sons in all the wars India has fought ever since Tibetans sought refuge in India. We are fond of talking of unsung heroes.

These Tibetans are the true unrecognised and unsung heroes. Yet they continue to fight and to die for India - believing that it is as much inthe interest of their beloved Tibet as their host country to continue to serve in the armed forces. These brave men and women - as also theirfamilies and loved ones; along with the rest of the Tibetan refugee community - believe that defending India's security is but a small way ofexpressing their gratitude to India.
India's Tibet:

Finally, a few words about the topic of this article. So far I have been commenting on the sub-title, which is about policy review, withoutsaying a word about what I mean by calling Tibet - 'India's Tibet'. There is a Chinese propaganda magazine called "China's Tibet". This is a clear example of how insecure China feels - not only about its holdover Tibet but more fundamentally even about its claims over Tibet. Fifty years after the invasion, forty years after the flight of the DalaiLama and the Tibetan Government; with an estimated half-a-million troops in Tibet and not a single foreign government openly questioningChina's military and colonial occupation of Tibet - it is indeed instructive that China still feels the need to call Tibet - "China's Tibet". Nodoubt, in addition to trying to reassure themselves, this is primarily an effort to convince the world that Tibet 'belongs' to China. In my view ithas precisely the opposite effect.

Be that as it may. I have often wondered why India doesn't stake its claim on Tibet. Between China - which seeks to exterminate the Tibetanpeople and to wipe out Tibetan religion and culture; and India - which gave Tibet the Buddha Dharma and has helped to save Tibetanreligion and culture - there is no doubt; India has the greater claim. It is like the story of young Prince Siddhartha who saves the swan hiscousin Prince Devadatta has shot. The claim of the latter rests on the grounds of having shot the swan. On the other hand, PrinceSiddhartha - the future Buddha - stakes his claim on the grounds of having saved the life of the wounded swan. The King rightly awards theswan to Prince Siddhartha. In today's world of realpolitik and spineless world leaders, we could hardly hope for such a decisive verdict.Nevertheless; even if only as a diplomatic exercise, why doesn't India file a case in the International Court of Justice and also raise theissue in the United Nations to stake its claims over Tibet ? In the first place India gave Buddhism to Tibet - the life-force of Tibetan life andculture. Today India has rendered crucial assistance and helped to save Tibetan religion and culture. If Tibet must belong to either of its giantneighbours, then surely, it should be to India - which has helped to save Tibet; and not China - which seeks to destroy Tibet.

52nd State of USA:

Even on the part of the Tibetan people, if we decide that Tibetan independence is not achievable (this is the present position of the TibetanGovernment-in-Exile to which I am totally opposed) and that the only option for us is to settle for some form of autonomy - however genuineor false - why then do we not decide to be a part of India ? Under any given situation or conceivable scenario; Tibet will fare far better under India than under China.

Those not willing to take decisions - especially one so unprecedented as this - will no doubt hasten to point out that the situation is toocomplicated; that this might not be acceptable to the Government of India; and even for a change, that such a decision may not beacceptable to the majority of our people inside Tibet; etc. etc. But we still have other options. We could ask to join the United States anddeclare Tibet the 52nd State of USA. And I cannot see what objections can be raised to this proposal. It is hardly a secret that almost allTibetans in exile - from senior Tibetan government officials down to the most lowly and unemployed; from high lamas to young novices - areall clamouring to emigrate to the USA by any means.

If it achieves nothing else, declaring Tibet a part of the USA will give the US President and the State Department the splitting headache theyso deserve. But this could become more than a headache. It could throw a real spanner in the works and mean that the US and China will nolonger be in a position to ignore Tibet in their bilateral ties. Also, calling the US and the Tibetans 'splittists' - China's favourite epithet for theDalai Lama and the US President - will finally have some substance.


But as far as I am concerned the fight for Tibetan independence must go on. Whenever the question of our goal - or rather the lack of one -comes up; I am told time and again that every Tibetan wants independence. In that case why isn't independence our goal ? I am not sureabout 'every' Tibetan wanting independence. But I know that this is true of the vast majority - especially those inside Tibet who continue tosuffer and to die in the struggle against Chinese rule. But so long as we remain silent, however big this majority, we are not going to beheard.

I, therefore, call on every single Tibetan who believes in independence and who live in exile to make their feelings known to our Governmentand to the public at large. I also call on the Tibetan Government to respect the memory of all our patriots who have laid down their lives inthe struggle for Tibetan independence and to heed the feelings of the vast majority of our people inside Tibet who continue to face thegravest risks in protesting against Chinese rule. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile has itself stated that already more than one million andtwo hundred thousand Tibetans - which is fully twenty percent of our entire population - have died as a direct result of China's invasion andoccupation of Tibet. How much longer will our Government continue to pretend that it doesn't know what the Tibetan people want? Cananyone vote more clearly than to v for time; that we can expect nothing from China and that they also believe that the only way forward forthe Tibetan people is to struggle for independence. I have no way of knowing how many say this out of conviction and how many do so notto hurt my feelings. I appeal to all our friends who believe in independence to please make your feelings and your reasons known to theTibetan Government-in-Exile. It is quite possible that the opinions of our friends may carry more weight with our government than the wishesand the lives of the Tibetan people.

Please visit for his views on the forthcoming Olympics in Beijing--- B.Raman.