Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tibet and China

Tibet is a strategic piece of real estate with an area of 470,000 square miles and a population of 2.6 million in 2000. Its average height is 16,000 feet and the region is the source of several major rivers that include the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, the Hwang Ho, the Indus, the Mekong and the Yangtze. Tibetan culture helped define the identity of Bhutan, Ladakh, Mongolia and Sikkim. Chinese troops over ran Tibet in 1950 and Nehru failed to act. My definition of Tibet excludes those districts that China had detached from Tibet proper and annexed to neighboring Chinese provinces.

China justifies its control over Tibet on several grounds. I shall enumerate its arguments. The Mongol dynasty of Chengiz Khan had annexed Tibet in the 13th century AD. The Mongol empire was eventually transformed into a Chinese dynasty under Kublai Khan. Tibet belonged to this Chinese empire. Much later, a treaty between Britain, China and Russia recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet in 1907. In 1914, the Simla convention between Britain, China and Tibet acknowledged that Tibet belonged to China. While Tibet enjoyed de-facto independence between 1912 and 1950, no country recognized its independence. Tibetan delegates participated in the drafting of the Chinese constitution in 1947. Both China and Taiwan reiterate that Tibet is a part of China. Last, but not the least, Tibet has been fully integrated into the People's Republic of China since 1959.

These arguments do not constitute a valid case for annexation. Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam were a part of successive Chinese empires. That historical fact does not translate into automatic Chinese suzerainty over the three independent states. Bangladesh and Pakistan would be part and parcel of the Indian Union if history were the sole criteria of nationhood. Moreover, Tibet remained independent between the 7th and the 10th centuries AD. Tibet was also independent between 1368 AD and 1720 AD. The Nepalese briefly invaded Tibet in 1855. The British seized Lhasa in 1904. Beijing had no relevance in either instance. An Anglo-Chinese treaty in 1906 conceded that Tibet was a British protectorate. Mongolia and Tibet signed a treaty in 1913 recognizing each other's independence. Tibet enjoyed independence between 1912 and 1950. The Tibetans have a different history, language, script and religion. They are not heirs to the Confucian inheritance of East Asia unlike Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

China's annexation of Tibet in 1950 can be disputed under international law. 400,000 Tibetans had been killed since 1956. Tibetan culture was suppressed during the cultural revolution. Nehru blundered in accepting Chinese control over Tibet without extracting a similar Chinese recognition that Kashmir was an integral part of India. He failed to secure a quid pro quo. He unilaterally withdrew the Indian military garrison in Lhasa and closed down the Indian post and telegraph office there while Chinese forces were busy fighting the Korean war. Furthermore, China continues to view Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory. It proceeded to annex 15,000 square miles in Aksai Chin in 1957 and briefly occupied 32,000 square miles in Arunachal Pradesh in 1962. Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, Ladakh, parts of Nepal, Sikkim and Spiti had traditionally come under the Tibetan sphere of influence. Communist China has claimed each of these territories at different times. India's long term interests necessitate that the Tibetan case be re-opened by the international community.


Dric said...

Tibet deserves to be an Independent State and the SELF DETERMINATION of Tibetans needs to be respected.Since Buddhism was the product of Ancient Indian Prince and has had strong cultural links with the region of Tibet since times immemorial, India is well within its right to support this SELF DETERMINATION of Tibetans.Today, India must undo the terrible sins of Nehru, by providing diplomatic and moral support to the Tibetans.

In other words, i am advocating a proxy war with China.

Jing said...

Just curious, but does your definition of Tibet include the present Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh?

Jaffna said...


I visited your blog site and liked it a lot.

Your question is at the heart of the matter i.e. the link between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet.

As you pointed out in your blog, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh once had the capacity to sustain 1/3 of the Tibetan economy. The links between the two are key. The question then is - Is Tibet a part of China?

China has traditionally supported Naga rebels in India. As Dric pointed out, I do not rule out the reverse happening vis a vis Tibet.

doubtinggaurav said...


Wrt. supporting tibetian seperatist, my questions are

1) Is it logisitically possible?
2) To what extent can India affort open confrontation with China?

Jaffna said...


I am not advocating any line here -merely presenting information with a footnote of commentary at the end.

Natwar Singh, Minister of External Affairs, of the current Congress-led administration once advocated that India concede Chinese control over Aksai Chin and in return secure Chinese recognition of Indian sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.

But the issue is that the region of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh has enormous strategic value to China. How is one to sort that out? I have no answers.

Dric said...

We can start off by making small moves wrt proxy war.This should be in the shape of subtle diplomatic noises and behind the door lobbying with other countries.The next thing would be start a clandestine military build up while simultaneously improving economical relations with China.Going by the Japanese election outcome and the Taiwan issue, there may come a time in the next 20 years when China is busy confronting its eastern neighbours.India should promptly use this chance and liberate Tibet.This is the same kinda trick that the Chinese used to invade India in 1962.

I agree that India at present doesnt have the resources to start a full scale proxy war with China.But a start can be made with the curses of the pinkos in India.

The Greatest Hokie Ever !! said...

How about supporting Vietnam and Taiwan ? Open recognition of Taiwan should force China to take account of us.

Aqua said...

thank you for writing this article on tibet. not many people agree that tibet was a free nation till the chinese occupation.

being a tibetan,,,i am happy to see people who are aware of the tibetan cause.


Blog Archive