The Tibetan Policy and Support of the Americas Act (TPSA), which came into force recently, emphasizes the geostrategic importance of the Tibetans, especially as a source of the great rivers of Asia. Passed with bipartisan support, TPSA establishes a U.S. policy that the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, including the successor to the Dalai Lamas, is a decision to be made only by Tibetans, free from interference by Beijing. It imposes sanctions on Chinese officials who interfere in such processes.
Will America’s new law serve as a warning to India to start reclaiming its influence over Tibet? India already received a wake-up call in April-May 2020 when China slyly grasped key views in Ladakh and then claimed, as in the case of the Galwan Valley, that they were historically part of the Tibet.
Tibet is clearly at the center of the Sino-Indian divide. And TPSA is of special importance to India, which provided refuge to the Dalai Lama and his followers, helped preserve the Tibetan language and culture, and kept the spirit of Tibetan independence alive. The Indo-Tibetan border was largely peaceful throughout history until China occupied the buffer zone of Tibet in 1951, establishing itself as a neighbor of India and then waging war 11 years over late.
The Chinese name of Tibet Xizang, or deposit of Western treasures, underlines the great value that this vast plateau, with its abundant mineral and water resources, represents for China. On August 29 of last year, President Xi Jinping ordered Tibet to become an impregnable fortress and that its borders be secured. The Chinese Communist Party perfected its repressive practices in Tibet before applying them to Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and now Hong Kong.
India must realize that by aligning its Tibetan stance with Beijing’s wishes it has emboldened China’s intentions against it. This emerges from China’s latest aggression, which sparked an ongoing, months-long standoff between more than a lakh of Indian and Chinese troops in freezing Himalayan conditions.
Today, China claims Indian areas on the basis not of a Han Chinese link with them, but of alleged Tibetan ecclesial or tutelary ties. Simply put, China’s territorial claims in Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are based on its claim to Tibet, which India has paradoxically recognized.
In fact, to tie India’s hands in Tibet, China cited the 2003 agreement under which India officially recognized the cartographic truncated Tibet that Beijing calls the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China. This recognition has allowed China to advance its strategy of slicing salami against India, including labeling Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet and gradually increasing its incursions into Indian areas.
But make no mistake: this agreement was canceled by China in open violation of its core provisions, including that, neither side should use or threaten to use force against the other. China’s use of force to unilaterally change the facts on the ground violates the terms of agreements aimed at maintaining peace and tranquility in border areas and working to clarify the effective line of control.
China lacks the legal capacity to pressure India into compliance when its actions knowingly gutted the deal, rendering it invalid under international law. Indeed, New Delhi has repeatedly stated that China, through its territorial aggression in Ladakh, has violated all border peace agreements and commitments that the two countries have signed.
China recently unveiled the Brahmaputra mega-project is another reminder for India to add nuance and influence to its position in Tibet. No nation is more vulnerable to the restructuring of China’s cross-border flows than India, as it alone receives 48.33% of the total river water that leaves Chinese-controlled territory. A Chinese Communist publication recently asked India to assess how China could militarize its control over transboundary waters and potentially suffocate the Indian economy.
As Tibetans pray for the long life of the current Dalai Lama, Xi anxiously awaits his death so that he can install a puppet as his successor, in the same way that China has taken over the panchen institution. llama. To derail her plan, India would have to tacitly help Tibetan exiles find, appoint and protect their successor. The Dalai Lama said his reincarnation would appear in a free country, which could mean in the Tibetan-Buddhist Himalayan regions of India.
India must step up to help advance its interests. He should begin to refer to the Himalayan border by its historically correct term of Indo-Tibetan border and point out that his acceptance of China’s claim to Tibet was based on Beijing’s assurance (which it broke) of ‘grant the plateau real autonomy. India could appoint a special envoy on Tibet saying that although Tibet has ceased to be a political buffer with China, it should become a political bridge between the two countries.
To counter China’s growing challenges to its unity and territorial integrity, India must think and act creatively. Americas TPSA is important because Tibet remains China’s Achilles heel.
If India is unwilling to exploit this vulnerability, the least it can do is stop endorsing China’s position on Tibet. This is needed to help stem the aggressive territorial revisionism of China’s Himalayas and challenge its plan to control the tap for much of the North Indian water. By carefully recalibrating its policy in Tibet, India can help make Tibet an international strategic and environmental issue.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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