ON THE WEB, 5 April 2017
The 14th Dalai Lama started his visit to “Arunachal Pradesh” (South Tibet of China) on Tuesday. The Dalai Lama has been to the disputed region before, but what makes this trip different is that he is received and accompanied by India’s Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. When China raised the concern over the visit, Rijiju commented that China shouldn’t intervene in their “internal affairs.”
When the Dalai Lama clique fled from Tibet, he sought shelter at Dharamshala of India, thus the Dalai question became one of the problems that upset Sino-Indian relationship. New Delhi takes a stance that opposes the Dalai Lama engaging in anti-China activities on the soil of India; however, it has long attempted to use the Dalai Lama as a card.
When India emphasises the relationship with China, it would place a tight control on the Dalai. When it has a grudge against China, it may prompt the Dalai to play certain tricks as a signal sent to China.
Recently, India has been strongly dissatisfied with China for not supporting its membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Its request to name Masood Azhar, head of Pakistani militant group, to a UN Security Council blacklist was disapproved by China, resulting in some Indians calling for a boycott of Chinese goods. The Dalai’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh this time is seen as New Delhi using the monk as a diplomatic tool to put pressure on China.
But this is a clumsy and rude move. The Dalai is a highly politicised symbol in China’s diplomacy. For any country, its attitude toward the Dalai Lama almost affects the entire relationship with China. The West has fully recognised the nature of the Dalai as a diplomatic card and is extremely prudent in using it. When the Dalai travels to the capital of a Western country, who will meet him, when and where would be carefully weighed.
Before this trip, the Dalai Lama was received by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in December. At a time when the Dalai has been given a cold shoulder in many places of the world, New Delhi is bucking the trend and treating him as a favourite.
It is worth mentioning that India is dissatisfied with China mainly in the international multilateral field, while the Dalai Lama question is purely a China’s domestic issue. China also suffered setbacks when applying for the membership of international organisations. Its proposal to blacklist some terrorist group had also been refused. However, as dissatisfied as China was, it didn’t make an issue of them.
New Delhi probably overestimates its leverage in the bilateral ties with China. The two countries in recent years have continuously strived to improve their relationship and the peace on the border area has been maintained. India has benefited from the good momentum of bilateral relationship as much as China. If New Delhi ruins the Sino-India ties and the two countries turn into open rivals, can India afford the consequence?
With a GDP several times higher than that of India, military capabilities that can reach the Indian Ocean and having good relations with India’s peripheral nations, coupled with the fact that India’s turbulent northern state borders China, if China engages in a geopolitical game with India, will Beijing lose to New Delhi?
China considers India as a friendly neighbour and partner. China has never provoked bilateral disputes or made any pressing demand on India over the Dalai Lama. New Delhi should respond to Beijing’s goodwill with goodwill.