Tibet is a victim of Sino-Indian border negotiations


China continues to occupy a large tract of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir and has supplied nuclear weapons and missiles to Pakistan. Yet New Delhi is trying to pacify Beijing by negotiating the Sino-Indian border dispute, especially when no border exists between the two countries. China’s recent demand that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of its territory has provoked a policy of appeasement from the Indian government for which it is likely to pay a heavy price in the future.

It would have been in the fitness of things for India to have said that save Tibet it has no borders with China. On Tibet, India has virtually legitimised China’s occupation of that country. For all practical purposes, the Chinese occupation of Eastern Turkistan, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria as well as the Chinese demand on Taiwan, which the Kuomintang Chinese had occupied in 1949, have also been recognised by India.

There is no historical evidence that Tibet was ever a part  of China before it was colonised in 1949. The same holds true for Taiwan, Inner Mongolia and Eastern Turkistan. If the Manchus are not Chinese, as Sun Yat Sen declared in 1911, Manchuria was never a part of China. The same argument could be advanced for the Mongols and Taiwan or Formosa was a part of China only for eight years, from 1887 to 1895.

Historically, Tibet and China are two independent nations. During the 13th and 14th centuries, both China and Tibet came under the influence of the Mongol empire. While the Mongols militarily conquered China, the Tibetans and the Mongols established the historically unique ‘priest patron’ relationship, also known as Cho-Yon. The Mongol empire ended in the mid-14th century. In the 15th century, in China, the native Ming dynasty overthrew the Mongols. During the Ming dynasty both Tibet and China existed as separate and fully sovereign states.

It is Beijing’s claim today that Tibet and China became one country by virtue of the Mongol domination of both nations. However, the the Mongols under Kublai Khan and his successors, who had the largest empire in human history, dominated virtually all of Asia. Both Tibet and China fell under the control of this empire: the Tibetans after peaceful submission in 1244-47, and the Chinese following the defeat of the Jin dynasty in northern China (1234) and the subsequent Mongol conquest of the southern Song dynasty (1235-79). Chinese historians now claim that Tibet was thus “officially incorporated into the territory of China’s Yuan dynasty”. They argue, somewhat inexplicably, that “this unification of the whole nation conformed to the advance of history and the desire of all nationalities”.

China’s logic

The fact that Tibet and China both came under the political influence of the Mongols does not indicate unification of the two countries. Iraq, Turkey, most parts of Russia and Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, northern Myanmar, North Vietnam, and Korea were at different points in time, parts of the vast Mongol Empire. Would that mean that these areas belong to China? India was occupied by the British, who also controlled Malaysia, Iraq, and Myanmar. Does that mean India should legitimately claim Iraq, Malaysia and Myanmar as its integral parts?

The British convened a tripartite conference to discuss Tibet’s status at Simla in 1914. The Tibetans arrived at the conference with evidence proving the historical independence of Tibet. The Chinese delegation argued that Tibet’s subjugation by the Mongols and the Manchus proved it had become an integral part of China. However, Tibet was not really subjugated by the Mongols and the Manchus but influenced by them. Neither the Mongols nor the Manchus were Chinese.

Tibet’s invasion by the People’s Liberation Army in 1949-50 is described in official Chinese history as a ‘peaceful liberation’. A 17-point agreement was signed between the Communist government and Tibetan officials in May 1951, which apparently “enjoyed the approval and support of the people from every ethnic group in Tibet”. If Tibet was part of China, then there was no need for the agreement which the Tibetan delegation was forced to sign in China in 1951.

The International Commission of Jurists concluded in its 1959 and 1960 reports that there was a prima facie case of genocide committed by the Chinese on the Tibetan nation. China is populating Tibet with the ethnic Chinese in an attempt to destroy the Tibetans’ cultural homogeneity, a policy that aims at destroying Tibet as a nation.

Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile estimates that while seven million ethnic Chinese now live in Tibet, there are only 2.3 million Tibetans.

India has failed in its prime responsibility towards Tibet. Despite a host of hostile acts — the 1962 Chinese invasion; supplying weapons, including nuclear arms, to Pakistan; providing sanctuary to north-east terrorists; opposed India’s possible permanent membership to the UN Security Council or possible membership of ASEAN; and naval circle of India with bases in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan — India has not learned lessons. Successive Indian prime ministers have visited China on several occasions and Indian industry has invested billions in that country. New Delhi’s appeasement of Beijing continues.

(The writer is a professor in international economics, Nagasaki University, Japan)

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