As mentioned yesterday on this blog, the Chinese government would probably ready to 'offer' India a Consulate in Lhasa, if India would accept to behave like Nepal does vis-a-vis the Tibetan refugees.
It can't be.
In an article, India still maintaining double standard toward exiled Tibetans, the CCP mouthpiece, The Global Times says: "India's policy toward the 100,000 or so Tibetans on its territory, both the separatist political group led by the Dalai Lama and ordinary Tibetans focusing on their daily lives, has played a large role in Sino-Indian relations."
This might be true, but the Chinese paper is wrong when it says that "there is contradiction between India's official 'one-China' stance and actual indulgence of some Tibetans' separatist activities."
The policy of the Government has been consistent (at least on this point), but the Chinese have always refused to admit that from immemorial times, there has been a special bond between India and Tibet.
On March 30, 1959, a day before the Dalai Lama arrived in India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the India Prime Minister declared in the Lok Sabha:
...the major things that we have to consider are as I said on the last occasion, the contacts of India with Tibet are very old, geographical, of course, trade, of course, but much more so, cultural and religious. Vast numbers of pilgrims go from here there and some come from Tibet to India. So that, this contact, this relationship is something deeper than the changing political scene. Naturally we are affected by it. Apart from that, as I said on the last occasion, large numbers of people in India venerate the Dalai Lama, respect him very greatly and he was our guest, honoured guest some time ago. Because of these contacts our reaction to anything that happens in Tibet is bound to be very deep, as we see it. It is not for me to object to those reactions. But, we have to bear them in mind.For the past 50 years, Beijing has difficulty to understand that he relation between India and Tibet is "something deeper than the changing political scene".
Nehru stated in Parliament: "there is this feeling of a certain kinship, If I may use that word, cultural kinship between the people of India and the people of Tibet. That, of course, does not mean that we interfere in Tibet, in any way. "
Four days later, the Prime Minister announced the arrival of the Dalai Lama in India. He stated in the Lok Sabha:
The other day, three days ago, I think, when I was speaking about recent happenings in Tibet, I mentioned that I would keep the House informed of every fresh development. In the last two days, day before yesterday and yesterday, we have been receiving a number of messages. They were often delayed because they had to come through a rather devious route.
Yesterday I was thinking of informing the House of a certain development, but then I hesitated to do so, because I wanted it to be fully confirmed; I was waiting for some details. We received them last evening. We could have issued this news to the Press last evening, but I thought I should inform the House first and then the Press can have it.
The facts are that on the 1st April, i.e. day before yesterday morning, we received a message via Shillong dated 31st March evening that an emissary with a message from the Dalai Lama had arrived at our border check-post at Chutangmu in the North-East Frontier Agency. He had arrived there on 29th March stating that the Dalai Lama requested us for political asylum and that he expected to reach the border on the 30th March, i.e. soon after he himself had come. We received the message on the 1st. The same evening, i.e. 1st April evening, a message was received by us again via Shillong dated 1st April that the Dalai Lama with his small party of 8 had crossed into our territory on the evening of the 31st March.On April 27, Nehru further informed the Parliament of the latest development. He declared:
Expecting that some such development might occur, we had instructed the various check-posts round about there what to do in case such a development takes place. So, when he crossed over into our territory, he was received by our Assistant Political Officer of the Tawang sub-division, which is a part of Kameng Frontier Division of the North-East Frontier Agency. A little later, the rest of his party, the entourage, came in. The total number who have come with him or after him is 80. From the 2nd evening, i.e. yesterday, we learnt that this party in two groups is moving towards Tawang, which is the headquarters of that sub-division and that he is expected to reach Tawang the day after tomorrow, Sunday, 5th evening.
I have made several statements in the House in regard to the developments in Tibet. The last statement was made on April 3, in which I informed the House that the Dalai Lama had entered the territory of the Indian Union with a large encourage. I should like to bring this information up to date and to place such additional facts as we have before the House."We could not leave these refugees to their own resources", said Nehru.The least India could do was to make arrangement for the refugees to settle in India. It was done during the following months and years.
A few days ago, the Dalai Lama and his party reached Mussoorie, where Government had made arrangements for their stay. I have had occasion to visit Mussoorie since then and have had a long a talk with the Dalai Lama.
In the course of the last few days, reports have reached us that considerable numbers of Tibetans, numbering some thousands, have recently crossed into the Kameng Frontier Division of the Northeast Frontier Agency and some hundreds have also entered the territory of Bhutan. They sought asylum, and we have agreed to this. Such of them as carried arms were disarmed. We do not know the exact number yet.
Temporary arrangements are being made in a camp for their maintenance until they can be dispersed in accordance with their wishes and the necessities governing such cases. We could not leave these refugees to their own resources. Apart from the humanitarian considerations involved, there was also the law and order problem to be considered. We are grateful to the Government of Assam for their help and cooperation in this matter.
The Chinese propaganda however started saying that India had 'forced' the Dalai Lama into exile. The Prime Minister had to clarify:
I need not tell the House that the Dalai Lama entered India entirely of his own volition. At no time had we suggested that he should come to India.That was the position of the Government of India in 1959; it is still the same 53 years later. Nobody can of course stop The Global Times and the CCP's other mouthpiece to express 'their' opinion.
We had naturally given thought to the possibility of his seeking asylum in India and when such a request came, we readily granted it. His entry with a large party in a remote corner of our country created special problems of transport, organisation and security. We deputed an officer [P.N. Menon, father of the present National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon] to meet the Dalai Lama and his party at Bomdila and to escort them to Mussoorie. The particular officer was selected because he had served as Consul General in Lhasa and therefore was to some extent known to the Dalai Lama and his officials. The selection of Mussoorie for the Dalai Lama’s stay was not finalised till his own wishes were ascertained in the matter and he agreed to it. There was no desire on our part to put any undue restrictions on him, but the special circumstances, certain arrangements had necessarily to be made prevent any mishap. It should be remembered that the various events in Tibet, culminating in the Dalai Lama’s departure from Lhasa and entry into India, had created tremendous interest among the people of India and in the world press. After arrival in Mussoorie, steps were taken to prevent the Dalai Lama from being harassed by crowds of people trying to see him as well as by newspaper men. Apart from this, no restrictions about movement were placed on him. He has been told that he and his party can move about Mussoorie according to their wishes. It should be remembered that the Dalai Lama has recently not only had a long strenuous and dangerous journey, but also had harrowing experiences which must affect the nerves of even a hardened person. He is only just 24 years of age.
India still maintaining double standard toward exiled Tibetans
After the 1959 rebellion, tens of thousands of Tibetans went into exile, following the Dalai Lama, and lived as refugees in India, Nepal, and other countries. Since then, the number of exiled Tibetans in each country has varied in accordance with the political atmosphere.
As the only great power that borders China's Tibet Autonomous Region, India has always been the largest host of exiled Tibetans. India's policy toward the 100,000 or so Tibetans on its territory, both the separatist political group led by the Dalai Lama and ordinary Tibetans focusing on their daily lives, has played a large role in Sino-Indian relations.
China and India had no problem related to the issue of sovereignty in history before UK's two invasions of Tibet in 1888 and 1904. By the end of 1947, India had achieved independence and inherited British government's privilege in Tibet.
In 1951, after the PLA drove out imperialist forces from Tibet, India didn't want to give up, which negatively influenced the Sino-Indian relationship.
The first issue that was raised between China and India was Tibet. Therefore the issue is not only a territorial problem, but also reflects more widely on relations. Indian policies toward the Dalai Lama group have changed from comprehensive support to selective support.
At first, India fully supported the establishment of the "Tibetan government in exile." Then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Dalai Lama as soon as he arrived in India.
India and China restored ambassadorial relations in 1976. But later after that, India carried out a two-track policy on the Tibetan issue.
On one hand, publicly, India didn't recognize the "Tibetan government in exile" and opposed Tibetan separatist forces. Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in this period. According the talks between the two sides, India has recognized that the area known as the Tibetan Autonomous Region is part of the People's Republic of China. India will not allow anti-China political activities by Tibetan exiles.
But on the other hand, India still secretly supports or indulges separatist activities.
In 1988, then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited China. The resumption of dialogue between the leaders of the two countries marked the normalization of bilateral ties. Since then, India has changed its policies toward the Dalai Lama.
A joint declaration was released after a meeting between Vajpayee and former Chinese president Jiang Zemin in 2003, in which India expressed its official position in black and white for the first time.
The Indian government exerts pressure on ordinary exiled Tibetans and uses them as a political tool. Exiled Tibetans who came to India or were born in India prior to 1979 can receive Indian residence permits. However, the residence permits must be renewed yearly.
India reserves the right to politicize the issue of exiled Tibetans, and takes ambiguous policies toward this group. For instance, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs views exiled Tibetans as stateless persons in the immigration registration form.
Generally, Indian policies toward exiled Tibetans are in keeping with India's strategic considerations about the "Tibetan government in exile." There is contradiction between India's official "one-China" stance and actual indulgence of some Tibetans' separatist activities.
Compared to the US and Europe's interference in China's domestic affairs over the Tibetan issue, India makes fewer accusations about the internal problems of Tibet.
Because India reserves the card of exiled Tibetans for future use, it needn't take risks to interfere in China's domestic affairs.
India can already exert pressure on China merely through indulging the activities of exiled Tibetans. However, exiled Tibetans may in the longer term be a heavy burden to Indian society.
Exiled Tibetans require residence permits to find work, rent an apartment, open a bank account, and obtain identity documents.
But most of the time, these exiled Tibetans can just be hired by small business and little workshops. Compared to local people, they lack opportunities of education and employment.
Exiled Tibetans may even become a hidden danger to India's own stability in future. The separatist activities of exiled Tibetans will threaten regional security and the whole China-India relations.
The "diplomatic bonus" brought by exiled Tibetans is decreasing, whereas the benefits of cooperation between China and India is growing.
Under these circumstances, the Indian government should reconsider its policies toward exiled Tibetans. Only then will India take a responsible stance for exiled Tibetans in a real sense.
The author is an assistant researcher at the China Tibetology Research Center.