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No end to China’s paranoia over Tibet

There seems to be no end to China’s paranoia over Tibet which was reflected again in President Xi Jingping directing senior party leaders last week to undertake fresh measures to indoctrinate youngsters in the Buddhist region so that they become more committed to the communist ideology.

According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Xi said China must build an impregnable fortress to maintain stability in Tibet, protect national unity and educate the masses in the struggle against "splittism."

His remarks clearly show that there are still fears of separatism regarding Tibet amongst the highest echelons of the Chinese government and a belligerent Beijing is keeping a hawk's eye on the situation.

The remarks were made at a meeting of senior Communist Party leaders convened to chalk out plans for the governance of Tibet. Xi said political and ideological education needed to be strengthened in Tibet's schools and the Communist Party must play a stronger role in the territory to ensure a better integration of its ethnic groups.

The Chinese army had occupied Tibet in 1950 in a ruthless crackdown which Beijing ironically claimed was a "peaceful liberation" of the people from a feudal past. The annexation of Tibet also marked the disappearance of a friendly peace-loving neighbor for India in the north where the impregnable Himalayan ranges provided security. With the Buddhist nation being replaced by an authoritarian and aggressive China as a neighbor, the geopolitical situation for India stood drastically transformed. This fact had been highlighted by Sardar Vallabhai Patel in 1950, a few months before his death, in a letter to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru with the advice that India would have to go in for a stronger military build-up.

However, Nehru was more keen on a non-militaristic approach in running the country’s foreign policy. In the interest of peace in the region, India had under Prime Minister Nehru for the first time formally recognized China’s claim over Tibet with the signing of the Panchsheel Treaty of peace and friendship in 1954. However, despite China securing major gains in this treaty, Beijing continued to harbor fears that Tibet could leverage foreign support through adjoining Indian territory to break away from China.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 to escape Chinese suppression and a belligerent Beijing started accusing India of supporting the Tibetans. This turned out to be a major cause for the India-China war in 1962.

The Panchsheel treaty had made Nehru complacent as he got carried away by the 'Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai' euphoria at the time and failed to take adequate steps to defend the country against a possible attack by China on the northern border. Ultimately India was caught off-guard as China had been making preparations for war over several months and had massed three times the number of troops that India could hastily rush to the front when hostilities broke out.

Even as China was getting increasingly aggressive over the years, India had been living up to its reputation as a peace-loving nation. In June 2003, then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed another treaty with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, recognizing Tibet as a part of China while China recognized Sikkim as a part of India. However, soon after the declaration, China repeatedly violated this declaration and the earlier Panchsheel accord both in substance and spirit.

The acquisition of Tibet only resulted in whetting China’s expansionist appetite as it keeps eyeing Indian territory to gain greater strategic depth.

India has as a matter of policy been exercising restraint and still gives precedence to resolve border issues through talks at both the military leadership level as well as diplomatic channels.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been following double standards based on the premise that might confers right. It perceives itself to be stronger than its neighbors and would like to keep the situation that way. While China has built elaborate infrastructure such as roads and railway lines in the high altitude areas to maintain the logistics chain for its army, it raises strong objections to India taking similar steps to restore a balance.

The latest Chinese incursions into Indian territory have been the proverbial last straw and now India has made it clear that it will not allow Beijing to violate its territorial rights.

Meanwhile, with a hegemonistic China also coming into conflict with the United States, its policies in Tibet are under the spotlight again. In July this year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tibet. He said the United States would restrict visas for some Chinese officials because Beijing does not allow U.S. diplomats, journalists, and tourists to visit the region.

Pompeo said in a statement the United States remained committed to supporting “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans and respect for their fundamental human rights.

“Access to Tibetan areas is increasingly vital to regional stability, given the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) human rights abuses there, as well as Beijing’s failure to prevent environmental degradation near the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers,” Pompeo had said.

He had also said the new security law China has clamped on Hong Kong was an affront to all nations, and the United States has implemented visa restrictions on officials responsible for the suppression of human rights..