Most of us give only a fleeting glance at news that comes out of Tibet; protests, marches, monks in a land far away! Far from the world we live in. The news of a robbery in our neighborhood grabs out attention and interest much more than the suppression of millions of people in Tibet. After all, why should we even think about Tibet?
Our history books taught us in school that the Himalayas provided India with protection from the raiders coming from North. Unfortunately 1962 proved that this was no longer true.
The unipolar world, which existed after the demise of the Soviet Union, is slowly but surely beginning to change. China is emerging as a new economic and military power. Its military muscle is more than a match for US. The recent shooting down of an old communication satellite by China demonstrates its capacity to paralyze communications in any country. It is reported to have a huge cyber army, ready to incapacitate network communications of any country and has been known to hack into and damage sensitive US Military computers. Its conventional army is being massively modernized and China is today one of the largest spenders on defense in the world. It makes India's defense budget look like peanuts.
Should we be worried about China emerging as a new Super power?
China's refusal to recognize Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India is well known. Its increasingly bellicose statements on the State camouflaged in Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai rhetoric is only matched by India's weak kneed response to these statements. The strong reaction by China on Dr Manmohan Singh's recent visit to the State would perhaps have not been acceptable to any other country and India's muted reaction to it was equally astonishing. China's claims on parts of Ladakh and it occupation of 36,000 sq.km of land in Aksai Chin need no reminders.
China has built massive Eastern, Central and Western Highways along its borders with India, while on the India side, troops still need mules to reach the border. It has also developed 3 railheads in the Western Sector, one in the Central sector and one in the Eastern Sector along the LAC, while India has none. In addition numerous airfields have also been developed in areas of Tibet adjoining Ladakh.
Indian reaction to this border strengthening has been ostrich like. In fact, the proposed East West Corridor in Assam was shifted away from the Chinese Border, ostensibly to save Wildlife. Arunachal Pradesh has one of the worst road networks in India. Traveling along border roads in Himachal and Leh is not for the weak hearted. A brief talk is enough with the locals in Ladakh's border area to gauge the feeling of terror people there have of Chinese Army.
China's influence on countries around India has been gradually increasing while India's has been on the decline. See Box -- "The Red Ring around India"
Until recently Nepal was regarded as a buffer between India and China, as was Tibet, until 1959 when the Chinese troops invaded the peace loving country. If China had not invaded Tibet in 1959, and Tibet was an independent country, would China be in a position to attack India in 1962? A mere 3 years after attaining absolute control over Tibet, China attacked India. As Nepal now moves into China orbit, the last buffer between India and China has disappeared. Does this have security implications for India?
An independent Tibet would be as valuable to India as the Post Taliban Afghanistan is. India is engaged with Afghanistan to counter Pakistan's influence in the region. An independent Tibet would not only be India friendly but physically push the Chinese Border far away from India thus restricting Beijing's ability to do mischief. Tibet has been an independent country since time immemorial. China and Tibet exchanged Ambassadors over the centuries. The first recorded claim of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet was made in 1902, after the British Indian troops captured Lhasa. In 1914 the Shimla Convention was organized by the British involving emissaries from China, Tibet and the British to discuss the future of Tibet.
From early 1900's China had started trying to control affairs of Tibet, but it was only in 1959 when it sent in its Army that it attained control over the country.
Since 1959 China has been systematically trying to erase the identity of Tibetan people. Learning Chinese is compulsory in Tibet as is having Chinese names. Most Tibetans have therefore two names, one Tibetan and the other Chinese. Without a Chinese name, you cannot even open a bank account! Practicing religion is discouraged and up to 6000 monasteries have been destroyed. Only a few prominent monasteries have been left untouched, especially in Lhasa. Thousands of monks and nuns have been imprisoned or killed. Having a picture of Dalai Lama can lead to imprisonment. This has forced hundreds of Tibetan families to send their children on long hazardous treks to India and Nepal, dodging the Chinese Border guards, so that they can get Buddhist education. Obtaining Buddhist education in Tibet is impossible. Teachings in the existing Nunneries and Monasteries are controlled by the Communist Party and "patriotic re-education" is a part of curriculum.
To dilute the Tibetan identity Chinese have encouraged native Chinese to migrate to Tibet. Out of every 3 people in the present day Lhasa, 2 are native Chinese! According to Times Magazine, on the main streets of Lhasa alone are 238 dance halls and karaoke parlors and 658 Brothels. The Potala Palace, once a symbol of culture and religion, is now surrounded by an Amusement Park. Economic disparity between local Tibetans and immigrant Chinese is present with the latter controlling most of the businesses in Tibet.
When such human sufferings are taking place in our immediate neighborhood, how can we turn a blind eye to them as if they do not exist? Would we be happier if Tibetan Buddhists were replaced by Chinese Communists, just as the Hindu Nepal is gradually being replaced with a Communist Nepal? While the entire free world spoke out against the recent Chinese oppression in Tibet, India earned the kudos from China for supporting it action against “thugs and rogues”.
How can India, once a moral leader of the world under Jawahar Lal Nehru, be transformed into a delusional ostrich under Manmohan Singh? If the Dalai Lama were to flee Tibet today, Manmohan's India would not even grant him a transit visa, leave alone asylum. If today China can prevent India's Vice Presidents meeting with the Dalai Lama, it won't be long before India's budget is also vetted in Peking. Why can't we see the grand design of China behind the “Hindi – Chini Bhai Bhai” rhetoric?
Only an independent Tibet can be of India's interest and can guarantee India's security. That is why we must be worried about events in Tibet. To know more about Tibet, log on to www.savetibet.org
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