Tibet: Core Issue Between India and China

India should bring the Tibet issue to the centrestage



Brahma Chellaney

Expert, strategic affairs

Economic Times, March 21, 2008


No event since independence has more adversely affected India’s security than the fall of Tibet. Tibet’s annexation by China created a new geopolitical reality by bringing Han forces to India’s frontiers for the first time in history. Within 11 years of extending its full control over Tibet, China invaded India — a war whose wounds have been kept open by Beijing’s aggressive claims to additional Indian territories.


Today, China’s occupation gives it control over Tibet’s vast mineral and water resources. Tibet not only has 126 different minerals, but is also the source of rivers like the Brahmaputra, Sutlej and Indus — the ongoing damming of which allows Beijing to fashion water into a political weapon against India. Indeed, China’s reckless exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources carries serious ecological and climatic implications for India.

            The occupying power now is creating new demographic realities on the ground that would help accentuate India’s security challenge. Not content with having turned Lhasa into an overwhelmingly Han city, Beijing is pursuing a vigorous “Go West” Han-migration campaign, which is being facilitated by the new railway. Tibet’s Sinicization is helping marginalize Tibetans, sympathetic to India. Is it any surprise thus that Tibetans have risen in revolt against Beijing’s relentless repression?

            With the Tibetan rebellion having spread to remote parts of Tibet, and even beyond to the areas forcibly incorporated in Han provinces, China has responded with brute force, cutting off the Tibetan plateau from the rest of the world, killing scores of protestors and arbitrarily arresting many in an ongoing crackdown. India cannot stay a mute spectator to the bloodletting on the land of the pacifist Tibetan Buddhist culture. The autocrats in Beijing will not ease their crackdown unless international pressure is brought to bear on them. The world has no second option.

            Tibet is the core issue between India and China. So India should not hesitate to bring Tibet to the centerstage, and plan for the time when its ally, the aging Dalai Lama, is no longer on the scene.

(c) Economic Times, 2008

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