Beijing reminds New Delhi 2003 Vajpayee-Wen declaration, claims India already recognised Tibet as part of China

Beijing still invoked the 2003 Vajpayee-Wen declaration to dissuade India from making any change in its position to exert pressure on China on the issue of Tibet
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 31 December 2020, 05:16 IST
Last Updated : 31 December 2020, 05:16 IST
Last Updated : 31 December 2020, 05:16 IST
Last Updated : 31 December 2020, 05:16 IST

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Invoking a 2003 joint declaration signed by India’s then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his counterpart Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Beijing on Wednesday reminded New Delhi that it had already recognized Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the communist country.

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China issued a statement denouncing the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) 2020, which the United States President Donald Trump signed into law recently. The TPSA 2020, which was passed by the US Congress earlier this month, reaffirmed the rights of the Tibetan Buddhists to choose the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama without any interference of China.

It also acknowledged the legitimacy of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE) elected by the exiled Tibetans as well as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE). The TPiE as well as the TGiE, which is formally known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), are based in India.

“In 2003, China and India signed the Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of India, in which India recognizes that Xizang Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the People's Republic of China and India does not allow Tibetans to engage in political activities against China in India,” said Ji Rong, the spokesperson of the embassy of the communist country in New Delhi. “This commitment was reaffirmed in subsequent bilateral documents between the two countries.”

The declaration was signed when Vajpayee visited Beijing from June 22 to 27, 2003 on an invitation from Wen. The two leaders signed the declaration on June 23, 2003.

India did recognize the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of China in the declaration. It also reiterated that it did not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India. The declaration also had Beijing expressing its appreciation for the position of India on the issue and reiterating that it was firmly opposed to any attempt and action aimed at splitting China and bringing about “independence of Tibet”.

Beijing on Wednesday stated that the media in India should take “an objective and fair stance on issues concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, and grasp the “highly sensitive” nature of issues related to Xizang (Tibet). It stated that the media should look at the economic and social progress of Tibet Autonomous Region objectively, and do more to help China-India bilateral relations move forward instead of advocating playing ‘Tibet Card’ to meddle in China’s internal affairs and further damage the bilateral relations.

The TPSA 2020 passed by the US Congress last week has been hailed by the Tibetans, who were concerned over the possibility of the Chinese Government making an attempt to install someone loyal to it as the 15th Dalai Lama after the death of the incumbent and use him as a puppet to fizzle out the global campaign against its repressive rule in Tibet.

The incumbent and the 14th Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India since his 1959 escape from Tibet, which had been occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950-51. He has been an icon for the movement for “genuine autonomy” for Tibet and the Tibetans.

But as the Nobel laureate Buddhist monk turned 85 on July 6 this year, speculation is rife over the fate of the movement beyond his lifetime.

New Delhi, however, has not officially made any comment on the TPSA 2020 that the American President recently signed into law, empowering the US authorities to impose sanctions on the Chinese Government officials, who might try to interfere in the process of selecting the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama, just as they had done in case of the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995.

Beijing still invoked the 2003 Vajpayee-Wen declaration – apparently to dissuade India from making any change in its position to exert pressure on China on the issue of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama set up the TGiE or the CTA on April 29, 1959, just a few weeks after he escaped from Tibet and arrived in India. The CTA calls itself the “continuation of the government of independent Tibet”.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama and the CTA of running a separatist campaign against China. Though New Delhi publicly maintains that the Dalai Lama is an honoured guest of India, it never formally acknowledged the CTA as the exiled government of the erstwhile independent Tibet. China, however, has always been objecting to India’s tacit support to the CTA and often demanded its closure.

China’s aggressive moves in late April and early May to unilaterally change the status quo along its disputed boundary with India in eastern Ladakh resulted in a military stand-off and took the relations between the two nations to a new low.

The stand-off also triggered calls in India for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to review New Delhi’s position and speak up against China’s rule and violation of human rights in Tibet and thus to put pressure on China. A section within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s mentor Sangh Parivar as well as some former diplomats and strategic affairs experts also called upon the government to send out a strong message to China by conferring India’s highest civilian award – Bharat Ratna – on the Dalai Lama.

Beijing dismissed the TPSA 2020 as an attempt by the US to interfere in internal affairs of China. It stated that reincarnation of living Buddhas including the Dalai Lama must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions.

Published 30 December 2020, 17:31 IST

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