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India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*

There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.
Ignoring India's civilizational relationship with Tibet, India hoped to gain from the emerging power of the People's Republic of China and thus celebrated Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. The Chinese military, the People's Liberation Army, replaced the Tibetans across the 4,085 kilometres of Himalayan border which is proverbially said to have been guarded by only 60 Indian policemen. India never had a common border with China before that.
If Tibet had remained a free and independent country today it would have been the tenth largest country with 25 lakh square km of land, it's geographical unit being the largest and the highest plateau in the world standing at an average elevation of 4,000 metres above sea level which is often called the roof of the world.
The Tibetan Plateau hosts 37,000 glaciers, one fourth of the world. It is a major source of fresh flowing rivers and dotted by thousands of lakes which are origins of some of the biggest and longest rivers in Asia. Rivers like Indus, Satluj, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow River flow in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China, catering to a population larger than that of entire China. It is shocking that such a reservoir of water and natural resources in Asia has been occupied by China and there has not been a word of protest on this.
Ancient Indian Buddhist culture is preserved in Tibet because of the shared history and culture between India and Tibet. In the Indian public psyche Kailash Mansarovar was part of India. Tibetans used to visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India at Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Nalanda and Amravati. Border was irrelevant between India and Tibet. People used to freely crossover. Today there are two armies and there is no point of crossover. Indians have to go to Tibet through Nepal. After the Galwan valley clash the armies of the two countries are standing eyeball to eyeball armed to the teeth.
After the Dalai Lama took refuge in India almost one lakh Tibetans have come to India, most of them living in Karnataka and in Indian Himalayan regions. Dharamshala, the seat of the Dalai Lama, is considered the capital of the Tibetans where the Government in exile is based. Although many Tibetans still dream of a free Tibet, India's desire to become close to China in the past has made the possibility of independence for Tibet remote. Being a refugee in India, the Dalai Lama has been speaking for autonomy adhering to India's One-China policy.
In seventy years of Chinese invasion more than ten lakh Tibetans have been killed; 6,000 monasteries destroyed; clear felling of Tibetan forest and carting away timbers to China has led to mad floods in lower lands in South Asia; mountains are bombed and strip mined for Gold, Copper, lithium and rare earth; Tibetan nomads and farmers have been robbed of their traditional pastureland and now encased in matchbox houses in artificial villages like the American style reservations.
In a nutshell, the genocide Tibet witnessed was ignored by the international community only for the greed for Chinese trade. Faced by the resilience of Tibetan resistance today China is targeting Tibetan language, culture and the Buddhist faith which they consider as the obstacles in their attempts to homogenize the Tibetans and integrate the "minority" into the Chinese hegemony.
Globalization has brought over 160 countries to trade with China as the otherwise western "liberal democrats" blindly accepted the One-China policy and recognized Tibet as a part of China. These trading partners have directly benefited at the cost of Tibetan suffering.
Burdened under such global pressure Tibetans have been suppressed to such a point that even a simple act of possessing the Dalai Lama's photo in Tibet could land you in jail on charge of separatism. Although Tibetan youth do not retaliate like others in Palestine or Kashmir, many youngsters in Tibet resorted to self-immolation and till now the reported numbers have reached 155 in Tibet alone.
During the visit of Chinese President or Premier Indian police customarily arrest Tibetan activists and jail them to appease China
Tibetans believe that if their spirit is free, China can never conquer them. Whereas Confucianism and Buddhism had a strong hold on Chinese society once, today the only religion the consumerist China worships is money. However, Tibet still maintains a Buddhist culture and that is why the Tibetans believe they will overcome the Chinese rule one day.
During the visit of Chinese President or Premier Indian police customarily arrest all Tibetan activists and jail them only to appease China. Yet, younger generation Tibetans take their inspiration from India's 200 years of freedom struggle. Even up to 1942 most Indians didn't believe their country was going to be free in five years.
The Quit India Movement called upon by Mahatma Gandhi had difficulty garnering mass support. But the situation in London was such that the Empire was collapsing under its own weight. Similarly, Tibetans believe that a day will come when Chinese would leave Tibet to save their own homeland.
China has occupied not only Tibet. The Uyghur East Turkestan, a Muslim country with 18 lakh sq km was occupied by China in 1949. In the same year Southern Mongolia with 12 lakh sq km and Manchuria with 84,000 sq. km were annexed to the People's Republic of China. Today 60% of China's 96 lakh sq km of land is occupied territory. But China's expansionist designs don't stop there. China's Belt and Road project is planned to rule the world industry.
Chinese Communist Party, the biggest political party in the world that runs China as a blatant capitalist country in the name of communism, also owns the PLA, runs the judiciary, the media and also appoints the country's President as Mao's legacy. Therefore even after killing over 4.7 crore Chinese, Mao's portrait still adorns Tiananmen Square. Most people in China do not know anything about the Tiananmen Square massacre, China's open secret.
After the Galwan Valley massacre and the recent case of China again dragging India to the UN on Kashmir is a proof that China has no respect for India’s territorial integrity. As China faces international isolation due to Covid-19 pandemic and the trade war with the US, India must stand up to China's bullying and junk it’s One China Policy by supporting Tibetan independence. India's support of the Dalai Lama's nonviolent movement for freedom will have global resonance.
Towards this, the first step every Indian must take is to start addressing the "China border" as Tibet border. After all, India has formed Indo-Tibetan Border Police to safeguard its Himalayan borders with Tibet. India must recognize the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and His Holiness the Dalai Lama as leader of all Tibet. Being the most important symbol of peace and leader of nonviolent movement, India must recognize this 85 years old with India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
---
*Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan poet and activist, who lives in Dharamshala; Sandeep Pandey is Magsaysay award winning social activist and is vice-President, Socialist Party (India)

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