India cannot protect China from Tibetans

Posted in China , United States , India | 31-Mar-08 | Author: Judith Apter Klinghoffer| Source: History News Network

Chinese authorities have known all along that Tibetans and their sympathizers could be expected to see the upcoming Olympic games as a golden opportunity to focus world attention on their demand for greater autonomy. What they have failed to consider is the radicalization of Tibetan Youth that is no longer dependent on India.

Since India has played host to the Dalai Lama and his supporters for decades, China has been playing hard ball with India by continuing to claim the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of Tibet. Only last month, China went so far as to protest strongly Prime Minister Singh's visit to that state. The message to India is clear: "Make a wrong move on Tibet, and we will start trouble in Arunachel."

It has been proven easy enough to intimidate Singh. After all, his rule depends on Chinese sympathizing leftist coalition partners and they are expert blackmailers. Just note their success in preventing India to sign advantageous nuclear deals with the IAEA, not to mention the United States. Indeed, when troubles first erupted in Tibet, China issues strong warning to India and as could be expected the Dalai Lama called for calm but his calls were not heeded. India is doing it's best to do China's bidding but it cannot deliver. Why? Because his followers were radicalized by American citizenship.

The Dalai Lama advocates a "Middle Path" by which he means a Hong Kong model autonomy achieved through non violent struggle. Not all his supporters agree with his strategy. Raman writes:

Tibetan youth, living in India, paid heed to the words and advice of the Dalai Lama even while criticizing his Middle Path policy.

They went along with his advice against any attempt to sabotage the Olympics [Images] even while taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the Olympics for drawing attention to their cause. They continued to respect the authority of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and political leader.

But the Americans of Tibetan origin, who had migrated to the US from India and obtained US citizenship under a special dispensation of the US Immigration Department, which granted US citizenship to 1,000 Tibetan refugees, came increasingly under the influence of anti-China groups in the US, which egged them on to sabotage the Olympic Games in order to embarrass China.

This group was very vocal in the criticism of the Middle Path policy and started expressing its reservations over the wisdom of the policies of His Holiness on political issues. The Tibetan youth, who continue to be resident in India, shared His Holiness' gratitude to India for giving shelter to the refugees and looking after them, but the youth, who had settled down in the US and obtained US citizenship, did not share this gratitude.

Particularly important and surprising to the Dalai Lama was the election of Tzewang Rigzin, an Tibetan- American as the president of the Executive Committee of the TYC at its session held at Dharamsala in September 2007. While the Dalai Lama supported the Beijing olympics Rigzin believes the Dalai Lama is overcautious as the Olympics games provide a golden opportunity to further the Tibetan cause.

This group embarked on a confrontation strategy which India is not only unable to control but some Indian and Tibetans find attractive. Moreover, it cruelly exposes India's China appeasement policy and provides the opposition BJP with invaluable ammunition. Of course, far from appreciating India's difficulties, autocratic China opts for the cudgel. Thus, when a Tibetan protester succeeded in breaking through the police ring protecting the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and hoisted on it a Tibetan flag, China summoned the Indian ambassador at 2 am to express it's strong displeasure India's mild response indicates says opposition leader Advani that India is still scared of China. Some government supporters warn indeed of a doomsday scenario: China-Tibet Conflict: Tibet Time Bomb Ticking For India?

To sum up: the Chinese strategy of leaning on India to prevent the Tibetans from exploiting the Olympics to their benefit is collapsing not because India is unwilling to do China's bidding but because it has lost control of the issue. That does not mean that China is willing to let India off the hook.

Nimble adjustment to new realities is not the forte of autocracies. The opposite seems true. In the meantime, the unrest is spreading to Nepal, the talk of boycotting the opening ceremony is getting louder and louder as the torch continues to present a most attractive target of opportunity to the young radicalized Tibetans and their supporters.

Fasten your seat belts. We are in the midst of yet another struggle between David and Goliath.