India's Tibet Option
EDITORIAL. Cecil Victor. IX. VI. X
INDIA'S TIBET BET
by CECIL VICTOR
been under incessant assault from China for most
of its existence. Most insurgencies in the
north-east of India (the oldest being the Naga)
had received military and political support either
directly or indirectly through the former east
wing of Pakistan and after the creation of
Bangladesh whenever Begum Khalida Zia of the
Bangladesh Nationalist Party has been in power in
India has tried to mend fences with China, the most important initiative in that direction being India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s acceptance that Tibet was part of China. But it took several decades before Beijing finally abandoned the Qing Dynasty “five fingers policy” that included Sikkim as its claimline and that came about only after China had set in place the means of extending its hegemony into the Indian Ocean on the Karakoram Highway through the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Created in connivance with Pakistan it was begun in 1956 and completed in 1986 even as India did nothing to stop it. That the Aksai Chin road was completed in 1954 through territory claimed by India (and which eventually led to the Chinese attack of 1962) shows that Chinese strategists were farsighted in their assessment of China’s position in world affairs. With Tibet in their pocket they set about cutting short the time required to install a military presence astride the sea lanes of communications through which most of the world’s oil supply passes by building the port of Gwadar on the Balochistan coast.
The Karakoram Highway has been built through the Kunjerab Pass in the north-western portion of Jammu and Kashmir which is in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Indira Gandhi prevented a second linkup between Pakistan and China through the Karakoram Pass which lies due east of Kunjerab by ordering the induction of Indian troops on the Soltoro heights of the Siachen Glacier.
In a move that was clearly designed to be both intimidatory and an escalation of tension China has followed up its claims to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh (not any more just the Tawang tract and its influential Buddhist monastery) to raising the ante in Jammu and Kashmir by refusing to give a visa to the commander of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it is disputed territory.
Red-faced for being taken for a ride on promises of peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the Tibet Autonomous Region India is looking for options to retaliate. It has immediately cancelled the visit of two Chinese military officials and has hinted at reciprocating the Chinese act of issuing visas to Kashmiris on a separate sheet of paper instead of a stamp on the passport.
It is an option worth pursuing because the Chinese are paranoid about Tibet given the widespread nature of the protests against the Olympics throughout the length and breadth of Tibet. In the first instance it would tend to bring back into contention the legality of China’s claim on Tibet. On the other it could reinvigorate the followers of the Dalai Lama.
However, the resurgence of guerrilla warfare in Tibet will take a lot of stoking because most of the cadres used by the CIA to stir up trouble in Tibet under the overall command of the Dalai Lama’s brothers have become too old for the rigours of insurgency. Also, the CIA has lost interest given that President Barack Obama has practically handed over the keys of Asia to China by suggesting that it arbitrate the dispute between Pakistan and India.
The reciprocal act on visas will also remain symbolic because there is not much traffic between Tibetans in exile in India and their homeland. Those who want to escape from Chinese control have, perforce, to come through Nepal which, because of the Maoists, tends to illtreat the Tibetan refugees and make it difficult for them to register with the UN Commission for Refugees which enables them to survive on UN relief.
However, taking a leaf out of Mao Tsedong’s book on guerrilla tactics the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) should reactivate Tibetan insurgency for the simple reason that given that (by Mao’s wily estimate) it would take between 25 to 50 Chinese security personnel to neutralize one guerrilla fighter, a significant portion of the world’s largest standing army would need to be diverted to counter-insurgency operations thereby creating a more manageable equation for the Indian Army (third largest in the world ) to tackle the Chinese threat. We need not feel the least bit squeamish because we have been, and continue to be, victims of Chinese instigation of insurgencies in the north-east, the latest revelations of the United Liberation Front of Asom’s contacts with China gives the lie to Chinese protestations that it has stopped aiding Indian militants.
So far as Chinese aided projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are concerned they are illegal by the very argument on which China is supporting Pakistan in Kashmir. They say it is disputed. If it is the UN Resolution they are alluding to then neither of them has any right to alter the situation on the ground or try to change the demography of the former princely State. Even as both pretend rectitude there is a raging political movement led by the Balawaristan National Movement comprising the Gilgit-Baltistan segment which Pakitan has practically handed over to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to suppress the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan’s claims to governance within the province of Balochistan has already been under dispute by the Balochistan Liberation Army and evidence of the strength of the movement is best illustrated by the daily blackouts in most parts of Pakistan dependent on the Balochistan Sui gas to fire thermal energy plants.
Given the vast body of evidence of malfeasance and sculduggery by both Pakistan and China in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, India should scrap the concept of “making borders irrelevant” in Jammu and Kashmir because the Pak-China collusion is intended to use the natural resources of the Jammu and Kashmir in a manner that will exclude India.
The Congress Party under Indira Gandhi showed how such situations can be handled. It is time the party took a leaf out of her treatise on geopolitics and protect Indian national interest as she showed.