By Dr Subhash Kapila*
India’s foreign policy establishment and its mandarins for decades have swept under the carpet the issue of Tibet’s “Freedom” from brutal Chinese Military Occupation impelled by misperceived obsessive mindsets of ‘China Appeasement’ and ‘Risk Aversion’ spawned by political timidity of Indian political leadership of past decades.
Contemporary geopolitical factors ordain that India sheds its diffidence on outright support of a “Free Tibet” as a vast “Demilitarised Zone of Peace”. Free Tibet should be internationally guaranteed Buffer State keeping China and its expansionist impulses far away from Heartland Asia.
Free Tibet as a ‘Demilitarised Zone of Peace” would also in the process contribute to overall security and stability of the Indo Pacific landmass and maritime expanse. China’s expansionist impulses would stand curtailed and so also China’s intrusive destabilising strategies in South Asia.
In my assessment, India’s efforts in this direction will find considerable support from the United States and other Major Powers around the globe which now perceive and are concerned with China’s expansionist aims.
China today is held in “Severe Strategic Distrust” even by the United States and the West as they perceive that their earlier perceptions that China would ultimately settle down as a ‘responsible stakeholder in global and regional security affairs’ stand belied by China’s unrestrained, deliberate and calibrated strategy to impose a a new expansionist ‘China World Order’ reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany.
The views expressed by me in this Paper may seem outlandish to noted policy analysts and may therefore be a ‘voice in the wilderness’ but at critical junctures in world history ‘’voices in the wilderness’ must be aired as forewarnings of catastrophic armed conflicts that may ensue due prolonged obliviousness of what I have constantly maintained in my writings as “Threats in the Making”.
India can no longer shelve ‘Tibet Freedom’ Imperatives when much against its wish India would be drawn to act decisively in the coming years to two predictable events which could impact Tibet heavily and moreso on Indian security. What I can foresee is that in times to come Tibet’s independence issue may turn into an internationalised issue and in that eventuality India would have no diplomatic or political space to be a passive spectator.
Firstly, the growing impatience of Tibet’s young generation with Chinese Military Occupation of Tibet and with HH The Dalai Lama’s counselling patience in fighting for Tibet’s independence and settling for self -autonomy. Secondly, the passing away of HH The Dalai Lama and China’s interference of ‘Imposing” its political choice of the Dalai Lama as opposed to centuries old Tibetan conventions of a ‘Spiritual Re-incarnation’ of the next Dalai Lama.
What are the Indian foreign policy establishment and its higher national security organs contingency plans to deal with the turbulence in Tibet that would follow in the wake of the above occurrences?
Should India as the Nation most impacted by Tibet’s turbulence not mobilise its foreign policy organs to commence sensitising global public opinion on the continued dangers of China militarily embedding itself and transforming China Occupied Tibet into a vast Military Garrison Expanse in the Heart of Asia bristling with nuclear weapons and missiles endangering contiguous areas of Greater South West Asia, South Asia and South East Asia?
Should not the Indian foreign policy establishment publicise and mobilise global public opinion against China for its Religious Genocide and Ethnic Genocide of the peaceful and spiritually inclined Buddhist millions of China Occupied Tibet?
The ‘Tipping Point’ has been reached in mid-2020 where China’s expansionist mood does not rest with China Occupied Tibet but now transcends into nibbling attempts of Indian Territory in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. It also now embraces Bhutan Territory just because Bhutan tilts more towards India.
China’s expansionist thrusts against India are impelled by twin objectives of China’s Grand Strategy primarily in 2020 as witnessed in recent military clashes in Eastern Ladakh, by military occupation of the Indian territorial wedge in Eastern Ladakh that separates China Occupied Aksai China from Pakistan-ceded to China of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, This Indian Wedge which revolves around India’s hold on the Karakoram Pass and holding the Siachen Glacial Heights prevents the ultimate consummation of the China-Pakistan Axis as one complete military contiguous whole on India’s crowning head.
The second objective is to dent India’s global image as an Emerged Power and its salience in global strategic calculus at the expense of China which in 2020 stands severely impacted by China inflicting on the global community the unprecedented China Wuhan Virus19 Pandemic. This accounts foe Chinese brinkmanship in other Sectors of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
China does not wish that India emerges as the pivot of any coalescing of a global coalition to checkmate China or for China Containment. If India as an Emerged Power perceives itself to play the role of a ‘Nett Provider of Regional Security’ in South Asia and South East Asia, then it becomes inescapable for India to step aside from military coalitions presently visible on the firmament of Indo Pacific security.
China’s current expansionist drive against Indian Territory stems from and is facilitated from the vast military base of China Occupied Tibet which China has converted into an arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles and massive deployment of China’s PLA Mechanised Divisions and other offensive formations all aimed at India.
Contextually therefore, India cannot ignore its legitimate security interests in striving for a “Free Tibet”—free from Chinese Military Occupation and reverting back into its pre-1950 status of a stable buffer state.
Forcefully asserted by me in a recent International Webinar on China last month was the stark truism whose existence can no longer be obliviously ignored by the Indian policy establishment and that was “There would be no China-India Military Confrontation if there was no China Occupied Tibet”.
India’s original sin in abandoning Tibet in 1950 to Chinese Military Occupation which was a ‘Free Country’ and a vital buffer state for Indian security, the onus lies directly on India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. In one stroke of political timidity, Nehru facilitated Communist China’s expansionist borders to shift from thousands of miles away and rest on India’s Himalayan watershed.
India’s “China Threat” thus became alive in 1950 with Communist China emboldened by Indian political timidity under Nehru making multiple claims to Indian Territory from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh and forcibly annexing strategic India Territory of Aksai Chin—the size of Switzerland.
India in 2020 therefore has definitely reached a “Tipping Point” where it must now decisively act politically, economically and militarily short of an armed conflict if possible, to undo Nehruvian India’s capitulation in 1950 to China’s enslavement of Free Tibet and bringing Chinese Communists imperialism on India’s doorsteps.
Ever since the end of last decade in my writings I have reflected that China is getting politically isolated by virtue of its military adventurism and military brinkmanship extending from India’s Himalayan Borders with China Occupied Tibet to South China Sea and East China Sea.
Geopolitically the above has come to pass demonstrably in mid-2020 when China has again stirred up militany turbulence in all these conflictual flashpoints and that too brazenly when the Major Democracies of the world and other Nations stand inflicted by the China Wuhan Virus19 Pandemic ostensibly generated by design or otherwise from Chin’s official Virological Laboratories in Wuhan.
Contextually, China in 2020 stands in severe “Severe Strategic Distrust” in world capitals all over the globe except for Pakistan. This opens windows of opportunity for India to launch a sustained and relentless global drive for the liberation of Tibet as an independent Free Tibet and restoring and preserving its centuries-old distinct Tibetan culture with its spiritual Buddhist underpinnings.
Indian PM Narendra Modi made a significant beginning when on his inauguration in 2014 as Prime Minister the Head of the Central Tibetan Administration was invited for his official swearing-in.
The significance of the above stood nullified when in the run-up to the Wuhan Informal Summit in 2018, an ill-advised of an Official Circular to prohibit all Indian Officials from the Tibetan Jubilee Celebrations. Not only that, the venue originally scheduled for New Delhi was confined to Dharamsala.
Indian foreign policy establishment seemingly finds itself unable to liberate itself from inherited obsessions of China Appeasement. This abject servility to China’s political and strategic sensitivities must now be consigned to dustbins of India’s diplomatic history by the Indian foreign policy establishment.
In the ‘Tipping Year’ of 2020 in China-India relations, it is high time that India and its diplomatic set-up gets into an over-drive to put into motion calibrated campaigns in world capitals, global think-tanks, and UN Human Rights Council for a Free Tibet.
India needs to draw up a detailed long-range visionary blueprint towards this ultimate end aim of a Free Tibet, an over-riding strategic imperative for India’s national security.
As starters, the Central Tibetan Admiration should be diplomatically re-designated as Tibet Government-in-Exile and given diplomatic salience in New Delhi and in world capitals.
India should also consider setting-up a separate ‘Tibet Desk’ in its Ministry of External Affairs, distinct from the China Desk and charged with the implementation of whatever blueprint the Indian Government adopts for a Free Tibet. This Tibet Desk could then engage with Free Tibet-friendly foreign Governments which would like to assist efforts in this direction.
Many more recommendations come to mind but I would not like at this initial stage to be brought into the public domain as to inhibit any pre-emptive measures by a so-rattled China. India’s diplomatic hierarchy, military hierarchy and intelligence agencies hierarchy can surely come up with appropriate recommendations.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that India striving for a Free Tibet is not some hair-brained idea but it surely is India’ ‘Realpolitik Option’ against an expansionist China which sequentially and relentlessly has been engaged in the most comprehensive strategy of under-mining India’s National Security and obstructing India’s emergence as a Major Power in global affairs.
Further, India working towards a Free Tibet would be able to do political penance for India’s Nehruvian original sin of abandoning Free Tibet to be enslaved and be genocidal brutalisation by Chinese Military Occupation of last seven decades.
In the ultimate geopolitical analysis India cannot escape the strategic inevitability of the United States and the West in times to come to play the “Tibet Card’ as a strategic option to checkmate and contain China in its current reckless expansionist aggression on its peripheries. India should prepare itself for this inevitability.
*Dr Subhash Kapila is a Graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College with wide experience in the Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat &Diplomatic Assignments in USA, UK, Japan, South Korea and Bhutan. His latest Book was on ‘China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives’. The views expressed are his own.