India should review its One China Policy and support the Tibetan movement as the future of Tibet and India are intertwined amid aggression by the Chinese Communist Party, according to leading academicians and scholars.
On the eve of October 1st, when China was celebrating its National day, commemorating 71 years of Communist Party rule, Indian think tank Usanas Foundation had organized a Webinar to bring the global attention to the lost and forgotten Tibetan cause.
The focus of the Webinar was on the ‘Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2019’, its impact on the future course of the United States of America’s policy directives towards Tibet, and the possible spillover effect on New Delhi’s ‘One China policy’ and the Tibetan resistance movement.
Dr. Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson Center said that the Trump Administration’s China strategy is not directed at the Chinese people or their culture but the Communist Party of China.
According to Kugelman, the downward spiral of the US-China relations started with Beijing’s failure in mediating the ‘North Korea Nuclear and Peace Negotiations,’ and Beijing’s pursuit of a muscular foreign policy which not well received in Washington D.C. He asserted that if Democrats’ presidential Candidate Joe Biden ascends to power, the USA’s strategy towards China might explore avenues of cooperation and tone down on the tough stand but overall, there is a consensus about disciplining China as opposed to complete reversal of existing China Policy.
China’s abusive behavior of border spat with India, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the unilateral imposition of New National Security law in Hong Kong, coupled with the wolf warrior style of diplomacy, could impact the U.S’s national security strategy with robust support to Tibet.
Kugelman further added that the two important documents defining and guiding the U.S.’s foreign policy objects are the 2017 ‘National Security Strategy’ and the May 2020’s document titled ‘United States Strategic Approach to the people’s Republic of China.’ In these two essential documents, the emphasis is laid on ‘countering the China threat’ and not ‘containing.’ It is also argued that the U.S has a moral responsibility to ‘counter’ China’s continued threat.
He also brought attention to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement calling the Chinese claims in the South China Sea as ‘Unlawful’ which indicates the policy shift. Kugelman said, ‘although the U.S and China are partners in counter-terrorism and infrastructure building, he believes that the U.S’s interests are better served in ‘countering China’…Joe Biden might not soften the U.S strategy but soften diplomacy.”
Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF and Head, Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative noted that post Galwan conflict, India has become more antagonistic towards China. She alluded to the elite public opinion makers in India who call for a strong response and support to Tibet, Dalai Lama, and not merely use Tibet as a ‘card’ when needed to antagonize China. She demanded the Indian Government to stand a stand on Tibet and Taiwan and review of the One China Policy.
There is a wave of public anger with the policy proposal to rename the Indo-China border to the ‘Indo-Tibet border,’ highlighted by Arunachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister Pema Khandu calling the Line of Actual Control as Indo-Tibet border during his interaction with Jawans at the border.
Referring to a recent news report on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s proposal to recalibrate the ties with China and reappraisal of Tibet policy, re-examine and challenge the legitimacy of ‘Tibet claims’ of China, she noted that Tibet’s independence is intertwined with the values of India and whether the growing sentiment will be gratified as a policy is to be seen.
Rajagopalan drew attention to conferring India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, to Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet for the remarkable and longest peaceful resistance of our times.
Referring to China’s consistent irritation and opposition to the Indian ministers and Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, she alleged that Delhi had been soft and downplayed the Tibet issue. She called for a consistent, serious, and carefully curated Tibet policy than merely activate ‘Tibet cause’ as a ‘card’ to irk the Chinese.
The third speaker was a Tibetan Writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue. Tsundue and the co-panelist Tenzin Dorjee (Tendor), a Senior Researcher at Tibet Action Institute, expressed their transcending gratitude to the Indian Government and the people of India for welcoming and hosting Tibetan refugees. As the repression under Xi’s new ‘Tibet Sinicization’ is the cause of greater concern for the Tibetan community living in the Tibet Autonomous region, occupied by China in 1950, the two activists jointly placed a request to the Indian government to allow and accept the new Tibetan refugees who are fleeing the cultural genocide.
He made some recommendations for the Indian Government, such as to use the nomenclature ‘Indo-Tibetan Border’ replacing Indo-China Border, to add Tibetan history and cultural links with India in school and college textbooks. Both the Tibetan activists noted that Tibetans accepted the ‘Middle way approach’ of His Holiness Lama, only to sustain the movement for a while, and believe that now the time has come for ‘Tibet’s independence.’
Tenzin Dorjee, made some insightful commentary on China’s deep-seated paranoia, emanating from the Covid-19 crisis’s test of the CCP’s performance legitimacy (economic prosperity) which the party has been boasting for years, propagating a Chinese governance model. He added that for Tibetans to rekindle the liberation movement, they need political backing from India and the U.S. He said Tibetans regard highly of India’s independence movement and feel that ‘Swaraj’ is their birthright. He said China’s aggressions at Ladakh, Arunachal, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, occupation of villages in Nepal, and the cultural genocide in Tibet would continue as long as Tibet is under China.