2018 is going to be a busy year for both the governments of China and India. From leaked memos in February instructing all Indian politicians and government officials not to participate in events organized by the Tibetan leadership, to a recent phone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping to work on deepening bilateral ties, it is clear where Indian interests lie and it is certainly not to the benefit of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA; Tibetan leadership based in Dharamsala).
As indicated in the article below from the Hindustan Times, the Modi government has made it clear that it does not want the Tibetan administration to engage in political activities against Beijing. In fact, while this message was quietly conveyed to the CTA in the past, it is now done openly and bluntly.
And now, it looks like India’s most important ministers are being hastily deployed to China to smooth things over ahead of a bilateral informal summit between Modi and Xi. Indian Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, a seven-time Member of Parliament and named by the Wall Street Journal as India’s “best-loved politician”, together with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will both meet their Chinese counterparts on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (“SCO”) ministerial summit in Beijing, China, from 24-26 April 2018. The SCO is an important Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation, formed in 2002/2003 and includes countries like China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
The SCO summit will be held in June this year in Qingdao, China, where the leaders of China and India are expected to next meet. As the article in the Hindustan Times states,
“South Block officials indicated that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is also expected to fly to Beijing after returning from Washington this weekend to meet his counterpart Wang, who is also the special representative for the India-China boundary dialogue. Wang was appointed state councillor by President Xi on Monday after his predecessor Yang Jiechi was elevated to the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.”
It is clear that the top brass of both China and India are planning something big — something important — to deepen economic and political cooperation. It is also explicit that India’s policy towards China is swiftly changing to the detriment of the Tibetan leadership in exile, and it is forecasted that India will further restrict Tibetans from conducting activities on Indian soil that would offend Beijing.
From left to right: India’s defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, China’s state councillor Wang Yi and defence minister General Wei Fenghe.
All this means that it would be much more intelligent for the CTA to tone down its anti-China rhetoric, which they have generated for many decades and utilized to gain sympathy, support and garner financial aid. They have even made use of this to line their own pockets, and use it as a cover for entrenched corruption and money laundering. The CTA’s rhetoric now needs to stop and they should concentrate on finding a real solution for their people. If they do not act, they may find themselves at the mercy of these two Asian giants who are likely to give them just two options – either go back to China or become Indian citizens.
Either way, the Tibetan diaspora will have to tone down their unconstructive rhetoric, or face cultural extinction. If they become Indian citizens, they must fly the Indian flag proudly and fight for India’s benefit and not Tibet’s. If they choose to return to China, they must accept being part of the ‘motherland’ and all it entails. In China however, the Tibetans stand a better chance of ensuring the continuity of their culture and traditions as they will be reunited with their people and homeland.
In any case, both options above compare positively with emigrating to the West such as to the USA. Not only is it a difficult process, but should they choose to do so, the Tibetans can look forward to a gradual but steady degeneration of their culture. Instead of yak-riding Tibetan herdsman attuned to nature, there will only be youthful Tibetans wearing blue jeans and smoking cigarettes within a generation or two at the most.
But why are Tibetans having to make these difficult choices? The fault lies with the Tibetan leadership-in-exile, both pre and post-1959, who have failed their country and people miserably. Is this the beginning of the end for the Tibetan leadership? What is the purpose of even having elected Tibetan officials and a Tibetan parliament if India has banned the Tibetans from indulging in political activities against Beijing? Will India continue to allow this entity to operate as they have done for almost 60 years to the detriment of their host’s future? Or will India enforce further limits on the Tibetan administration as they did back in 2012 when the “Tibetan Government-in-Exile” was downgraded to the “Central Tibetan Administration”? Why can’t Tibetans in India just become Indian citizens and begin earnestly “giving back” for what they have received? All these are questions that need answers. I suspect it is going to be a busy 2018 indeed.
SCO ministerial summit: Swaraj, Sitharaman to meet their Chinese counterparts in Beijing
Click to enlarge. (Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sco-ministerial-summit-swaraj-sitharaman-to-meet-their-chinese-counterparts-in-beijing/story-be6FgUHbIXJo0KuQbBEHoJ.html)
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