|Waiting for the Dalai Lama|
Listening to Chinese diplomats like Ma, who warned of consequences for India, it would seem as if Tawang and Arunachal have always belonged to China. The fact is that such claims had been an after-thought
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Chinese diplomats seem to become more and more ‘undiplomatic’, not to say ‘uncivilized’.
Take Ma Zhanwu, the Chinese Consul General in Kolkata; he threatened India of dire consequences, would Delhi refuse to cancel the Dalai Lama's trip to Arunachal Pradesh.
During a press conference, he said: “Tawang is disputed territory between India and China and the Dalai should be kept away from the place if an amicable solution to the border dispute is sought.”
In fact, there is no dispute about Tawang, especially after China and India signed an agreement in 2005 on the “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question” which stipulates “the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.”
In other words, there is no question of changing the status of Tawang.
In this context, Mr. Ma’s threateningly tone is surprising: “…if the visit happens, China will be forced to take measures against India and that will affect co-operation and ties between us.”
Though diplomats like Ma have little knowledge about history, Beijing has done some home work to propagate its version of the story.
Last month, a briefing was organized in the Chinese capital to explain to the Indian and foreign journalists what happened in 1959. Lian Xiangmin, Director of Institute of Contemporary Tibetan Studies reiterated China's claims over Tawang. "One of the three major temples of Tibet is Drepung monastery near Lhasa, and Tawang was a subsidiary of Drepung and in history, Tawang's monks went to Drepung to study sutras. Tawang under Drepung also made contributions to the local government. So Tawang is part of Tibet and Tibet is part of China, so Tawang is part of China. So this is not much of a question."
For centuries however, the Buddhist Himalayan belt had closed connections with Tibet; in Ladakh for example, most of the monasteries were affiliated to monasteries in Western Tibet; ditto for Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul or Sikkim, linked with other religious centers in Tibet.
According to the logic of Mr Lian, all these areas should become Chinese?
But if Mr Lian had gone a bit deeper in history, he would have realized that there is no such a thing as ‘Tibetan Buddhist’, the entire ‘Tibetan’ tradition comes from Nalanda and it is Shantarakshita, the Abbot of the great vihara who ordained the first Tibetan monks in the Land of Snows. Following further Mr Lian’s theory, the entire Tibet should belong to India?
It is interesting to look at the first days of the Dalai Lama in India.
On March 26, 1959, the Tibetan leader, then camping in a border village called Lhuntse Dzong, wrote to the Indian Prime Minster: “Ever since Tibet went under the control of Red China …the Chinese Government has been gradually subduing the Tibetan Government.” He announced that on March 31, he would be crossing the Indian border: “In this critical situation we are entering India via Tsona. I hope that you will please make necessary arrangements for us in the Indian territory.”
At the appointed date and time, the Tibetan leader and his entourage reached the Assam Rifles post in Chuthangmu, north of Tawang.
On April 3, Nehru answered Dalai Lama’s telegram through the Government of Assam: “We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.”
It is worth noting that since that day, the Dalai Lama has been considered as an honoured guest by all successive Indian governments. Beijing has to live with this fact; this is not going to change.
Regarding Tawang, when the Dalai Lama crossed the border, China did not claim the area south of the McMahon line. If it was China’s territory, Chinese troops would have followed him, no?
In 1959, a lot appeared in the Chinese media about the so-called ‘Tibetan rebellion’ which started on March 10, and the subsequent flight of the young monk to India, but in the Communist literature in April/May 1959, there is not a single word about Tawang being part of China.
On May 6, The People’s Daily (PD) carried a nasty article ‘The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy’, insulting the Indian Prime Minister for having granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. The mouthpiece of the Communist Party said: “The war of rebellion unleashed by the handful of traitors in Tibet has in the main been quelled. With the ignominious defeat of the rebels, the sanguinary conflict they created has ended over the overwhelming portion of Tibet.”
The fact that 87,000 unarmed Tibetans died during the days following the uprising is not mentioned while the Communist paper conveniently forgot that it was the ‘masses’ who revolted against the Chinese occupation, the PD continued: “May we ask all those vociferous self-styled sympathizers of the Tibetan people, just who are the ‘Tibetan people you sympathize with? …Whose defeat is the defeat of the rebellion in Tibet which you weep and mourn over?” …When the big serf- owners in Tibet gouge out the eyes and hearts of the serfs, these specialists in sympathy did not feel it a tragedy and did not demand of these serf-owners moderation and humanitarianism.”
Nehru, though personally accused, remained calm in the Lok Sabha; he declared: “there are many articles in the world press with which we are not in agreement; some are even very censorious of India or Indian policy;” he did not want to reply the wild accusations, though he spoke of a cold war technique: “we have recently had some experience of that regard to India. …We did not like it. The question arises whether we should adopt that technique or not.”
On September 11, 1959, Premier Zhou Enlai addressed the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the Sino-Indian boundary question. Again, he did not mention Tawang, though he said that there was no reason for Beijing “to accept the Indian Government's unilateral claims concerning the Sino-Indian boundary. The so-called McMahon Line was a product of British imperialist aggression against Tibet. It had never been recognized by any Central Government of China and thus had absolutely no validity in law.”
All this changed, after the Kongka Pass incident in October 1959 which resulted in the death of 9 Indian soldiers. Beijing realized that India was ‘now’ claiming the Aksai Chin and questioning their road through the area.
Thereafter, Beijing’s stand was more aggressive and NEFA became China’s territory as a bargain against its occupation of the Aksai Chin.
Today, listen to Mr Ma and his colleagues, it sounds as if Tawang and Arunachal have always belonged to them, but the claim was clearly an after-thought.