Nehru’s cowardice, Modi’s courage: Should India now say Tibet is not part of China?

Ugyen Gyalpo

Ugyen Gyalpo

By Ugyen Gyalpo

NEW YORK, US, 5 April 2017

The recent visit of the Dalai Lama to the north-eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh caused quite an uproar. From the usual low threats and robotic-like state spokesperson’s intimidation from the orchestrated press room of the Chinese, the visit also attracted unexpected indulgence from an insurgent group known as ULFA (probably influenced by the Chinese) that is known to India for causing havoc around that area for decades now, for their fight to the teeth for a separate socialist state that they believe India exploited out of racism, marginalization, and so forth.

This was a region from where, if you turn back the clock to 31 March 1959, the Dalai Lama and his entourage on horse back entered India, followed by an exodus of Tibetan refugees later on, that compounded and swelled into a diaspora community that we know today into thousands that have hitherto been living in India for the past 60 years, eclipsing two generations of Tibetans born into the state of exile.

India in 1959 was a child just over a decade old, who tasted freedom after being subdued under colonial yoke for over two hundred years. Their political insecurity as an independent country around the 1950s was always well-founded, after centuries of imperialism paralyzed their consciousness almost to eternity. Hence, Nehru the prime minister of a young free country, probably setting the weight of the Himalayas on his heart, declared “Tibet as a part of China”, catapulting this into an unprecedented blunder that still haunts India to this day.

It was a time, through black and white TVs and fuzzy radio wavelengths, that the whole world was looking to India to lead a moral fight against the illegal occupation of Tibet happening right under their nose, a time when China as a new imperialist and still carrying fresh scars of Japanese oppression didn’t even have an atomic bomb, a time when the international community’s aversion on China’s illegitimate invasion mounted high on their radars. It was a time that a rightly calculated decision by then Prime Minister Nehru in the early 1950s could have averted the invasion and the cataclysmic destruction that ensued, that the world would have stood behind India for their moral stance, had there been any honest effort as such. But this was not meant to happen when Nehru harbored narcissistic plans in his own fear-mongered selfish mind.

A free and independent Tibet would have served as a natural peaceful border and a coveted natural buffer zone between the two Asian giants as we all know it. But Nehru’s guarded intimidated approach on not paying attention to the upheaval early on in Tibet, starting from the 1950s, was a price India still pays today, with discrete border lines drawn and redrawn at China’s whim, dams built intentionally to divert waters flowing to India from occupied Tibet and with their ever-prickly border skirmishes invoking time and again, a sorcery of self infliction into their once ironic narrative of “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai”

The humid air over the Indian parliament in the summer of 1959 was that of suppressed fear and partisanship consensus fanning appeasement on China, by giving them the illegitimate gift of recognizing Tibet as an integral part of China, at the expense of swallowing a few Tibetan areas into India proper. And at the same time, leverage a bargain for peace by giving political asylum to the Dalai Lama on humanitarian grounds, who had escaped a probable assassination attempt preceding the 10 March uprising in Lhasa in 1959.

It is imaginative and common sense that China might have been quick to dismiss their rage against India for allowing His Holiness to stay, assuming that the lost influential power of the exiled temporal leader and his long absence from Tibet would demoralize and help Tibet die on its own weight and submerge into the ocean of coerced systematic Chinese assimilation efforts.

But the polarizing heavenly personality and spiritually fragrant wealth of His Holiness the Dalai Lama earned him instant global fame and along with it, attracted bees of international support for the moral and just cause of Tibet, that later started waning as China’s role in the symbiotic world of trade became embedded and their influence paramount. At a time when Hollywood and rock bands inspired free Tibet movement, that caught like fire into the minds of the free-thinking world, only to be later doused, when the “Middle-Way approach” (MWA) was implemented, and with His Holiness effort of peace initiative to bring about a closure to the Tibet issue through a tough compromise that earned HHDL the Nobel Prize for Peace.

As years went on from 1959 to 2017, the world changed dramatically. Along with the shrinking of the world through globalization, the leveling of the playing field, and the advent of the internet, the geopolitical dynamics of the world changed as well. But the only thing that remained constant was the suffering inside Tibet that intensified, as was testified through countless self-immolations that rocked Tibet for ages to remember, at a time when India emerged from their third-world infamy, to be one of the force of the emerging economies with their robust growth in middle class and an advancement in sciences and race for space.

Nehru unfortunately is not the prime minister at a time like this, when India might have a consequential say in world politics. Unlike the 1950s, where Nehru probably buried his insecure conscience into the closet and swept Tibet’s legitimate place in the world under the rug of political conspiracy and forced people at the Atlas to erase Tibet off the world map.

Now times have changed. India is a nuclear power and a force to be reckoned with, in the global economy with the most resources of the youngest educated workforce in the world, and since China is trampling all over India to wield their prowess particularly in Southeast Asia, and dictating India on their terms, even as to where their most beloved, respected, and revered guest His Holiness the Dalai Lama could go freely within the borders of India. I think that India should brush off their Nehru-like cowardice and should for once and all come out strong and break that ceiling of political hypocrisy and declare and recognize with conscientious solidarity, that Tibet is not a part of China and double down on their greatest insecurity by burning Nehru’s cowardice with Modi’s flaming courage.

In wishful thinking, if Nehru could have been resurrected from his grave and spiritually possess himself into Modi’s body for a day, as a retribution to what he did morally wrong, he could redeem himself by setting the historical fact straight that Tibet was never a part of China as he once said it was. This one shift on India’s policy towards China on Tibet’s status would open the floodgates on the Tibet support fronts, hitherto fearing for China’s economic prowess to follow suit and cement this fact forever.

This will also make it easy for Dharamshala and the CTA to change their policy from MWA to Complete Independence — the leaders of which are probably at an embarrassing crossroads, neither able to withdraw nor advance their policy and waiting for the right tide to turn back on their failed policy.

Tibetans then trumpeting their so-called democratic system of governance bestowed by His Holiness, will have an opportunity to administer an open opinion poll, just like they supposedly did when the MWA was first formulated in the seventies, although assuming without much publicity and public involvement. And, with the spiritual guidance and endorsement from His Holiness, will the Tibetans come to a consensus and reflect upon the real aspirations of the Tibetan people, on real-time changes, as opposed to driving every policy with Buddhist principles and edicts of the Middle Path. I feel it’s time that Tibetans should deal with the world in their own terms, that are unscripted, undogmatic, and in real life and in real time.

About the author

Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.

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