A Failed Anniversary

They planned it big—the Tibetans in exile. The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) or what is known as the Tibetan government in exile, announced well in advance, the time-table for a grandiose programme of 'Thank You India' event in Delhi to mark 60 years of the Dalai Lama's ‘great escape’ from Tibet and to acknowledge Indian support to the Tibetan community in the country. The meeting would have seen an inter-faith gathering at Rajghat of nearly 7000 people at Thyagaraja Stadium in the capital in the presence of leaders of all major political parties of India. In a country where communal riots and religious intolerance are a recurring phenomenon the Dalai Lama has been a symbol of inter-faith harmony for quite some time. But the CTA sponsored conclave was finally cancelled after India's new foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale reportedly asked cabinet secretary P K Sinha that government officials be advised not to participate in the CTA meet. Now it would be shifted to Dharamshala with less showbiz.

If anything the Government of India doesn't want to identify itself even remotely with the Tibetan government in exile at this juncture, particularly after snubbing at Doklam. The way Gokhale's directive was leaked to the media was no less embarrassing for the Dalai Lama and his men. Mr Gokhale, former Indian ambassador in Beijing is widely recognised as a China expert even by the Chinese. While addressing the distinguished guests at the Chinese spring festival reception in February the Chinese ambassador to New Delhi Mr Luo Zhaohui appreciated eloquently Mr Gokhale's contribution to improve India-China relations. Mr Luo's gesture was at best a fine-tuned Chinese diplomacy for which the Chinese diplomats are praised worldwide. In truth Gokhale's letter asking Indian officials to avoid the Dalai Lama's semi-politico-cultural event was made public in the midst of the Lama's 33rd 'Mind and Life' dialogue—an annual interactive session between science and religion. At that time about 200 scientists from all over the world were attending the Dalai's spiritual class at Dharamsala. Quite naturally it was doubly embarrassing for the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile.

After the Doklam fiasco China has multiplied its diplomatic efforts to isolate India nationally and internationally and to some extent they are successful. Perhaps India is now trying to convey the message to Beijing that New Delhi won't give any leverage to the Dalai Lama to agitate the Tibet issue publicly. Strictly speaking the Lama and his CTA men are not allowed to indulge in any kind of political activities. So the controversial foreign secretary letter was deliberately released a day before the foreign secretary was visiting Beijing.

India is now in no position to play the Tibet card against China. The periodic attempt to parade the Dalai Lama in North East and occasionally in Arunachal Pradesh has failed to attract international attention for a cause called Tibet.

For the strategists in New Delhi, Tibet is a lost case. The chapter is almost closed because the Dalai Lama himself is a mellowed person today. The Dalai Lama's attempt, subtle though, to negotiate with China by giving up the idea of independent Tibet once and for all is disliked by the persons in power in New Delhi. Whether the Lama could make a deal with the Chinese during his life-time is a different matter but it is now an open secret that he has been trying to have an understanding with the Chinese in lieu of Tibetan independence. His emissary and former prime minister of the CTA Samdeng Rinpoche allegedly visited China secretly in mid-November while keeping the New Delhi authorities in the dark. It is unlikely for the Lama to endorse India's position on Arunachal Pradesh if his men make rapprochement with Beijing. Also, once Tibet is recognised by the Dalai Lama and the CTA as an integral part of China throughout the history, India's case with the British scripted McMahon line holds little water. Beijing has not changed its original stance on the India–China border dispute even by a fraction. It rejects the McMahon Line which is based on the Simla Accord of 1914 signed between Tibet, China and British India. As Tibet was not a sovereign authority, China dismissed its legality to sign the border treaty.

For one thing, as of now, the Dalai Lama has not said openly that Tibet was always an integral part of China. Nor does he openly support the 'One China' policy which in effect means Tibet is an integral part of China.

The hard fact is that China has not shifted an inch from its stated position on the border since 1962. Nor would China concede an inch to any country. The Doklam stand-off has exposed the vulnerability of Indian army. Indian troops are no longer able to patrol the disputed area it used to earlier, albeit the Indian military bosses were happy to make statements to the media that the questionable resolution of the Doklam crisis was a 'victory' for India which it was not. On the contrary the face-off in reality helped entrench the Chinese forces. Today the Chinese presence in the area has increased many folds only to mock at India's claim of 'victory'. It was humiliation—plain and simple.

Maybe, India's foreign office is preparing cordial atmosphere for the up-coming preparatory ministerial meetings for the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO). Modi is going to attend the SCO summit at Qingdao in June.

By distancing itself from the 60th anniversary of Tibetan authority in India, New Delhi can hardly gain anything substantial in terms of India-China bilateral relations. The Chinese are ultra-nationalist. In a 30-minute fanatically nationalistic speech at the close of the National People's Congress last last month Xi Jinping who now enjoys absolute power for life, would say "since modern times the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation has become the biggest dream of our nation". Socialism with Chinese characteristics means bloody nationalism. China is ready to wage a "bloody battle", with an oblique reference to India of course, to assume its due place in the world. So said Xi at his concluding address to the NPC. Having failed to extract any concessions from Beijing by continually highlighting the Dalai Lama factor, both nationally and internationally, India of late, seems to be showing eagerness to come to terms with the ground reality, even by not allowing harmless peaceful protests by Tibetans outside the Chinese embassy. After 60 years the Dalai Lama phase of India-China diplomacy seems to be coming to an end.

Vol. 50, No.39, Apr 1 - 7, 2018