India’s approach to Tibet has been unduly circumspect, and it has reiterated its acceptance of Tibet as a Chinese autonomous province. However, this strategy has made India more vulnerable to Chinese coercion.
Tibet has historically played a significant role in the intricate connection between China and India. Despite its importance, Tibet is still seen as an afterthought in Sino-Indian ties, which casts a heavy pall over bilateral dealings. India’s approach to Tibet has been unduly circumspect, and it has reiterated its acceptance of Tibet as a Chinese autonomous province. However, this strategy has made India more vulnerable to Chinese coercion.
The Tibetan Movement and India
It is safe to claim that without India’s strategic assistance, the Tibetan problem and its national movement would not have gained traction. India repeated its stance on accepting Tibet as a part of China on the condition that Lhasa exercised complete autonomy, which Beijing never respected, during Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 34 years. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, made same claims in 2003. However, there has been a noticeable change in India’s Tibet policy since 2014.
India’s Adaptive Strategy
Various moves by India show that its position on Tibet is shifting. The leader of the Tibetan government in exile was invited to the swearing-in event in 2014, thanks in part to the Indian government’s management of public forums including the Dalai Lama. On His Holiness’ 88th birthday, on July 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally sent birthday greetings, continuing a practice that began in 2014. Additionally, India sponsored the first worldwide conference on Buddhism this year, which was opened by the Indian Prime Minister and attended by high-ranking Indian officials. In addition, India changed its position following the conflict in the Galwan Valley by officially endorsing the Tibetan Special Frontier Force. However, India must express its commitment by recognizing the Central Tibetan Administration, which paradoxically serves as Tibet’s government in exile and is based in India.
Tibet’s Importance in Sino-Indian Conflicts
The invasion of Tibet and the following shelter the Dalai Lama received were major factors in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Any support for the Dalai Lama or his adherents is considered to be a violation of China’s “One China” policy as they are seen as separatist leaders. The latest border disputes in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, which China views as a part of South Tibet, bring back to light Tibet’s significance as India’s natural neighbor and highlight the unresolved character of the Tibet question in the continuing struggle between the two countries.
India’s Need to Recenter Tibet
India has to bring up Tibet in discussions with China and at international forums, emphasizing the important problems that are relevant to its relationship with both Tibet and China. Whether Tibet is seen as a primarily human rights problem or as an unsolved political concern, how India moves forward would have an impact on its ties with China. The United States’ adoption of the Tibet Policy and Support Act in 2020, which formally acknowledges the Tibet human rights problem, fuels the global movement. During his recent trip to the US, Indian Prime Minister Modi had the chance to highlight Tibet’s ongoing political and human rights violations, but he chose not to do so. When China selectively participates in overseas peace accords while ignoring its own territorial disputes, the legitimacy of its reputation as a responsible peacebuilder is called into doubt.
Soft Power of India and International Support
Giving the Dalai Lama sanctuary has boosted India’s soft power abroad and weakened China’s reputation for fostering peace. China’s loud opposition to India’s Kashmir policy may be deterred by taking firm diplomatic action towards Tibet. India can boost its position as a serious threat to China and win backing from Western nations by working closely with global powers on the Tibet issue.
India’s foreign policy should now be centered on the Tibetan question. A squandered opportunity results from ignoring Tibet and avoiding it for the sake of bilateral ties. The international community must not ignore Tibet’s political and territorial importance even as it is critical to recognize Tibet as a human rights concern. The world should pay more attention to and assist Tibet and other areas. It’s time for the international world to stop abandoning and ignoring Tibet and to unite behind this crucial cause. Tibet, sometimes referred to as the palm in China’s Five Fingers strategic strategy, is of utmost geopolitical importance. It affects regional stability, territorial claims, and water security, as well as India-China relations and the delicate power balance in South Asia as well as southeast Asia, particularly in downstream countries. As the highest plateau on Earth, it serves as a crucial buffer zone for China.