Insecure China

India did well not to succumb to Chinese pressure over the holding of the global Buddhist congregation in Delhi this week and over the presence of the Dalai Lama at the conference, even though the high-level border talks between national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and China’s special representative Dai Bingguo, which were to be held at the same time, had to be postponed.

The two events were separate and had nothing to do with each other. The congregation, which is being held to mark 2,600 years of enlightenment of the Buddha, is mainly a private event, though the government has   supported some side events associated with it. Therefore India could not have conceded Beijing’s demand for cancellation of  the conference, though the President and Prime Minister, who were to take part in the conference chose to stay away. The congregation is a major event for Buddhist monks and scholars from all over the world and had been scheduled long ago. India also could not have prevented the Dalai Lama from participating in it because it is a religious event and had nothing political about it.

The Dalai Lama has studiously avoided any political activity in India, and India has taken care to ensure that the actions of neither the spiritual leader nor his supporters violated the terms set down long ago.

It has always been India’s position that the Dalai Lama is a guest and it would not place any restrictions on his activities as a religious and spiritual leader. China has been obsessively sensitive to the Tibetan leader, probably because it feels insecure about its presence in Tibet where even recently monks had protested against denial and violation of human rights. In the circumstances the best solution was to postpone the border talks, which might now be held in December.

There have been other recent irritants in relations, like China’s objection to Indian companies’ role in hydrocarbon exploration in the disputed South China Sea and New Delhi’s unhappiness over China’s activities in Pakistan-occupied  Kashmir.

This is unfortunate. But there is no need for India to give in to any pressure and concede any unreasonable demand made by Beijing. China may want to assert its  power and strength in its neighbourhood and in the global arena. India also has its own interests to protect and promote. An unequal and weak relationship will not help India to reach a fair and satisfactory resolution of its disputes with China.

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