China: Dalai Lama accused of “selling out” Chinese territory with Intention to Sow Discord in Sino-Indian Relations
C3S Paper No.169 dated June 11, 2008
Reacting to Indian press reports (4 June 2008) about the statement made for the first time by the Dalai Lama that the “McMahon line”, fixed by the 1914 Simla Convention is legal and accordingly, “ Arunachal Pradesh” including Tawang, is a part of India, a report in the People’s Daily- affiliated Global Times (Chinese language, 10 June 2008), recalled that the Indian Government ‘forcibly occupied’ the Chinese territory south of “McMahon line” in 1951 and formed “Arunachal Pradesh” in 1987. According to the Chinese paper, the Indian despatches contrasted the present statement with the evasive reply given by the exiled leader on the subject earlier in 2003 during his visit to Tawang, saying merely that “Arunachal Pradesh” is a de facto part of Tibet, along with the remark that what the spiritual leader has said now, can certainly influence the Sino-Indian border talks.
Global Times quoted an authoritative India specialist associated with the Institute for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Sun Shihai, as saying to the paper’s correspondent that the change in the attitude of “Dalai” on “Arunachal Pradesh” reflects the fact that the “ Tibet Independence” forces are facing bad days more and more, in the background of improving Sino-Indian relations. The change has more or less brought out the “worries” on the part of such forces, as China and India get closer. The Olympic torch could pass through India and New Delhi arrested the ‘head of the Tibet independence organisation’. No activity of “Tibet Independence” forces can influence the overall situation in Sino-Indian relations. The Chinese scholar asserted that on Sino-Indian border talks, the “Dalai” cannot represent anybody and that the change in his attitude, will not affect that talks.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has described the Tibet issue as a ‘sensitive’ one in Sino- Indian ties. Beijing reportedly took up the issue of the Dalai Lama’s ‘free use’ of the Indian media, when India’s Minister for External Affairs visited China recently. Now comes the Chinese allegation, perhaps for the first time in recent years, on the exiled leader’s ‘sowing discord’ in Beijing-New Delhi relations. Beijing’s motives are not difficult to see – it intends to apply more and more pressure on the Dalai Lama to accept Central Government’s conditions for dialogue as well as give a subtle warning to New Delhi about the risks for bilateral relations coming from any encouragement under the pretext of democracy, to what it feels, the ‘anti-China’ activities of the Dalai Lama and his followers in India. Secondly, Beijing seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone- using the attack on the Dalai Lama to drive a wedge between him and the Indian Government as well as to reinforce its claim on Arunachal Pradesh.
Interestingly, the latter is being carried out through an unending publicity drive and it is happening at a time when New Delhi is taking care to use every occasion to satisfy China by declaring that the Tibet Autonomous Region is an integral part of China. Obviously, China, for its own reasons, does not feel any necessity to maintain restraint in reciprocation to such attitude of India.
The recent Tibet unrest is widely being seen outside China as a factor, which could contribute to erosion of China’s bargaining position in the border talks with India. Adding strength to such views, are the Dalai Lama’s latest observations on Arunachal, which may find acceptance of the Tibetan population inside China. Contrary to what China is telling, it should therefore be Beijing, which should “worry” about what the Dalai Lama has said.
(The writer, D.S.Rajan, is Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai,India, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)