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Experts slam Indian stand on Tibet
Ehtashamuddin Khan in New Delhi |
July 02, 2003 21:35 IST
A meeting of China experts and activists in New Delhi on Wednesday slammed India for accepting a part of Tibet as autonomous Chinese territory, calling it a failure of India's foreign policy.
The meeting was convened to discuss Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China -- its successes and failures.
Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney said: "It is India's first explicit recognition of the annexation of Tibet by communist China. Our earlier governments also made concessions, but it is for the first time that India has stooped so low."
During his six-day visit to China, Vajpayee signed a memorandum of understanding with China recognising the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the People's Republic of China.
Chellaney said the stand was a clear deviation from India's earlier position on the issue.
He said the Tibet Autonomous Region is a small part of Tibet, where only a third of the Tibetan population lives. This area has been officially recognised by China as Tibet, while four Chinese provinces have annexed large parts of Tibet. So by using the term 'Tibet Autonomous Region' for the first time in a legal document, India has accepted China's position.
Chellaney said Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had signed an agreement with China in 1954, apparently under tremendous pressure, that said Tibet was an autonomous 'region' of China. "All successive governments have reiterated this stand," he said. "But now we have totally changed our views on the issue. Our policy makers don't understand history and have not learnt from the past. We are reliving history."
During Vajpayee's visit, an agreement was also signed in which China for the first time hinted of its acceptance of the Himalayan state of Sikkim as an integral part of India.
But Chellaney, who was involved in Track II diplomacy with China from 1993 to 1999, said the problem of Sikkim was a non-issue and it was made an issue simply to make concessions on Tibet. "They [the India government] linked the Tibet issue with Sikkim, made concessions on Tibet, and returned emptyhanded," he remarked.
Vijay Kranti, a Tibetologist and editor of the magazine Tibbat Desh, agreed with Chellaney's views. "Two countries are trying to decide the fate of a third country," he said. "They have no right to do so. Mentally we have accepted that the Indo-Tibet border is in fact the Indo-China border. That is what the Chinese want."
He expressed concern over the decreasing Tibetan population in the Tibetan areas that have been incorporated into mainland China. "If you go to a place like Lhasa, you will find just one Tibetan among 10 Chinese," Kranti said.
But Sheshadri Chari, editor of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh magazine Organiser, chose to differ.
"China is changing and we need to facilitate more people-to-people contact," he said. "For the first time, China has recognised Sikkim as part of India. Is that not a victory? And as far as Tibet is concerned, we have always maintained that Tibet was part of China. There has been no change in our policy."
Tashi Wangdi, a representative of the Dalai Lama, preferred not to take a clear stand on Vajpayee's visit. "As India and China come closer, I hope there would be a solution to the Tibet crisis," he said.
To this, Chellaney said Tibet's government-in-exile that Wangdi represents cannot speak up against the Indian government as it has taken refuge in India.
A young Tibetan student stood up as the discussions were on and said: "We are disappointed by Vajpayeeji's visit. India has said exactly what China wanted."