Why is China hurting its ties with India over the Dalai Lama's Tawang visit?

After all these years, do the Chinese expect the 82-year-old to lead a revolution to 'liberate' Tibet?

 |  3-minute read |   07-04-2017
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China does not seem to have realised that India, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is different from the one ruled by the Congress for a decade.

It is difficult to understand why Beijing is getting worked up over the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang.

The Buddhist spiritual leader fled his homeland and arrived in India, nearly six decades ago, as a young monk of 24 to save himself from the Chinese Army, who sought to crush the mass uprising in Tibet.

After all these years, do the Chinese expect the 82-year-old to lead a revolution to “liberate” Tibet?

Apparently, some sections of the Chinese leadership think so, however absurd it may seem, particularly as the Dalai Lama has repeatedly been saying that his demand was that Tibetans gain autonomy to preserve their identity and religion.

Whether he visits Tawang or not makes not an iota of difference to the status of Tibet and China’s territorial disputes with India.

These problems won't vanish into thin air if the Dalai Lama prays at the monastery in Tawang.

tibet-4_062215075234.jpg The Tibetan cause has to jostle for media coverage in the land full of sadhus. Photo: India Today

The territorial disputes between the two countries have long been on the dialogue table, and are waiting to go through the ordeal of serial talks for the umpteenth time. No light is visible at the end of the “dispute tunnel” as neither side has decided to look to a resolution.

What then does China achieve when its foreign ministry demands that “India stop using the Dalai Lama to do anything that undermines China’s interests” and that the “Indian side not hype up sensitive issues between India and China,” or by calling the Indian ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale to lodge a protest?

China’s hype over the Dalai Lama's movements has done one thing: it has given wide publicity to his visit.

It has raised a lot of heckles among the public leaving little manoeuvring space for both the governments.

The Dalai Lama does not make front-page news in India till the Chinese make a noise about him. The Indian media makes very little space for him.

The Tibetan cause has to jostle for media coverage in the land full of sadhus (including the corporate ones who have entered our breakfast serial and shampoos), spiritualists, fakirs and a whole tribe of religious leaders whose messages the electronic media beams 24x7.

The Chinese have indeed done a favour to the the Tibetan leader by creating a ruckus over his visit.

We can now expect the Dalai Lama’s address at the Dirang monastery to be widely broadcast.

Beijing, on the other hand, would do well to read his message: “Situation inside Tibet is tragic. The situation in 21st century will be miserable if it continues like this. The world suffers from short-sightedness which is not good. We shouldn’t bully each other.”

Pondering on the last sentence of Dalai Lama’s message would help cool tempers to take a realistic view of the situation.

China feels that by disregarding its concerns and “obstinately” arranging the Dalai Lama's visit to the disputed part of Sino-Indian border, India is “causing serious damage” to its interests as well as India-China relations.

It is difficult to believe that the Dalai Lama’s visit would cause more damage to the bilateral ties when the Chinese have repeatedly trampled upon India’s concerns.

It has blocked India’s efforts to get Pakistan-sponsored terrorist Azhar Masood blacklisted by the UN, although it knows India has been under serious threat from Pakistan-based jihadi terrorist outfits.

Can it be worse than China finalising the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with utter disregard to India’s objections, and start executing the project on Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan?

China should seriously ponder how it is dealing with India. India is not Mongolia to be browbeaten by words. Beijing needs good relations with New Delhi as much the latter does. But they won't improve with threats or warnings.

India is not China; it is a vocal democracy where public perception impacts how India acts, probably, much more than it does in China. The earlier the Chinese realise the better the relationship-building will be.


Colonel R Hariharan Colonel R Hariharan @colhari2

The writer is a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia with rich experience in terrorism and insurgency operations.

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