Monday, October 11, 2010

The Negotiations That Never Were

 A review of my book The Negotiations That Never Were appeared in the Sunday edition of The Free Press Journal. It has been written by Prof. M.V. Kamath.

The Negotiations That Never Were
The book under review is an interesting narrative on how the Dalai Lama tried to retrieve, from powerful Chinese invaders of Tibet, at least genuine autonomy in place of lost sovereignty of his people. His negotiations with Beijing began in 1973. In November 2008 the Dalai Lama, was forced to say that he has given up on China: "It is difficult to talk to those who don't believe in truth. I have clearly mentioned that I still have faith in the Chinese people, but my faith in the Chinese government is thinning". ( pp. 265)
To understand weakening of Tibetan cause as China began to increase its economic and military power, we need to understand Indian contribution to that weakening of Tibetan cause. Chinese invasion of Tibet was sold by Zhou Enlai to Pandit Nehru as liberation and not a neo-colonial action! Nehru thus, came to recognize Tibet as an autonomous region of China. All the subsequent Congress PMs maintained Tibet as an autonomous region of China and reassured China that the Dalai Lama will not be allowed to carry on political activities on Indian soil.
Indian concessions to China on Tibet have only weakened the cause of Dalai Lama, who had initiated talks— indirect and direct, with Beijing. First contacts took place in April 1973.
Kundeling Woeser Gyaltsen, a minister in the Dalai Lama's Cabinet passed through Hong Kong on his way to India. A Scottish missionary, George Patterson introduced Kundeling to Chinese language newspaper editor, Lee Tsung- ying. But nothing came out of the meeting. According to Patrick Moynihan, then US ambassador in India, Americans too were “prepared to intercede with China on behalf of Tibetans refugees.” ( p. 34)
But beginning from the 1970s until the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was a period of pentagonal balance of power globally, with US- China- Pakistan trying to balance the combination of the Soviet Union and India particularly in South Asia. Hence, the US was not inclined to upset their developing relations with China while India was not able to use its cordial relations with the Russians to pressurize China on Tibet. On the other hand, India according to the author, when the Dalai Lama visited Western Europe, Indian Government under the pressure of Beijing, asked the countries visited, to treat it as ‘personal' and not ‘official' ( p. 39).
Once Deng Xiaoping emerged as paramount leader in China in 1978 with the backing of moderate faction in the Communist Party, there were new hopes of a dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing. There was a meeting between Deng and the Dalai Lama's brother Gyalo Thondup. Deng had blamed Gang of Four for a difficult situation in Tibet. The dialogue was set in motion when Deng told Gyalo that 'The door is opened for negotiations as long we don't speak about independence.

Everything else is negotiable ( p. 57).
But subsequently several rounds of talks were held with level of talks from China downgraded. Yet there were signs of change in Chinese policy on Tibet. Deng appointed a working group under Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang. He had admitted that Tibetan lives under China had not improved; he reiterated the promise to allow Tibetans "fully exercise of nationality autonomy in the region…" Thondup, Dalai Lama's brother visited again in 1981 held talks with Hu Yaobang; Tibetan delegates explained to Chinese leaders that Tibetans are different from Chinese in respect of culture, language and pursuit of religion etc. Yet in every round of talks, it has been the same story that the extreme conservative elements have won the round in China preventing any concessions to Tibetans. Saner voices have impressed upon Chinese leaders that if those who think that after the demise of Dalai Lama things might improve, live in fool's paradise. Yet China refuses to face the promises made by the past leaders like Deng: Everything except independence is open to negotiations!
Prof P M Kamath was formerly Professor of Politics, Mumbai University

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