Looking at the matter globally, when Burma's junta in the September of 2007 killed at least 31 people during monk-led protests in the capital Rangoon, it triggered international outrage and a new wave of US-led sanctions. But when the junta's closest associate, the world's largest autocracy in Beijing, has cracked down on monks, nuns and others in almost all parts of Tibet, with an indeterminate number of people killed. The muted global response thus far raises the question whether China has accumulated such power as to escape international censure over highly repressive actions.
India does not do itself, any disservice if she displays a greater deal of independence and does not bow-down to Beijing's stand on Tibet, why does India with her rapid economic growth, powerful military and robust democratic institutions act in such a subservient nature to the China?
New Delhi's reluctance to challenge China over Tibet goes back to Beijing's brutal repression of the Khampa revolt 50 years ago, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans, fled to India. Although China sharply reproved India for providing refuge to His Holiness, India stood its ground. Shortly thereafter, following a breakdown of negotiations over a disputed border, China attacked and defeated India in October 1962. Even though India's army has since been modernized and prepared for mountain warfare, the memory of this rout still haunts Indian military planners and policymakers.
Also Indian foreign policy has been burdened by a legion of panda-huggers, who bring discredit to our democracy and comfort to our adversary. These Sinophiles believe the only alternative to continued appeasement is confrontation. They cannot grasp the simple fact that between appeasement and confrontation lie a hundred different options. A false choice - pay obeisance to Beijing or brace up for confrontation - has been used to block any legitimate debate on policy options.
Why Tibet matters?
Why does Tibet matter so much?, it is but a frozen plateau located at a unforgiving altitude and devoid of any noticeable value to anyone, but if one looks closer we understand the value of Tibet to India. Tibet's vast glaciers and high altitude have endowed it with the world's greatest river systems. With global warming likely to aggravate water woes, Chinese domination over the origins of Asia's water sources is a worrying factor for lower lying countries like India. Think back to the words of the former World Bank Vice-President Ismail Serageldin when he warned that, "If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water."
Tibet's forcible absorption not only helped China to expand its landmass by one-third, but also has given it a contiguous border, for the first time in history, with India, Bhutan and Nepal, and a gateway to Pakistan and Burma. By subsequently and illegally annexing Aksai Chin in Ladakh , the Chinese was able to link Tibet with another vast, restive region, Eastern Turkestan (Ch: Xinjiang), home to Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic groups and seat of a short-lived independent East Turkestan Republic up to 1949. The reckless exploitation of the immense mineral deposits that the Tibetan plateau possesses, and the building of new hydro and railway projects that links the mainland with the Tibetan region are playing havoc with Tibet's fragile ecosystem which in turn is critical to the climate security of India and other regional states.
Tibet's security and autonomy are tied to India's own well-being. If the ‘Roof of the World' is on fire, India can hardly be safe. The choice before India is to either stay stuck in a defensive, unviable negotiating position, where it has to fend off Chinese territorial demands, or to take the Chinese bull by the horns and question the very legitimacy of Beijing's right to make territorial claims ecclesiastically on behalf of Tibetan Buddhism when it still has to make peace with Tibetans.
Second, if Tibet is to be the means by which India coops up the bull in its own China shop, it has to treat the Dalai Lama as its most powerful ally. As long as the Dalai Lama is based at Dharamshala, he will remain India's biggest strategic asset against China. The Tibetans in Tibet will neither acquiesce to Chinese rule, as their latest defiance shows, nor side with China against India.
India has long, albeit fitfully, sought to uphold human rights both at home and abroad. Today, when it has aspirations of regional and global leadership, it needs to demonstrate the self-confidence to condemn China's repression of its Tibetan minority and to provide comfort to the Tibetan diaspora. If India wishes to be seen as the exemplar of a modern democratic nation with global aspirations then, she should at minimum stand up and take a stand.