By Shazia Anwer Cheema
Is the United States planning to play the Tibet card vis-a-vis China through India?, is an important intellectual question under discussion in European academic circles.
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who was visiting India on July 28 met a representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi and of course, Beijing does not like such meetings.
Secretary Blinken met Ngodup Dongchung, who presented him with a scarf from the Dalai Lama. Dongchung serves as a representative of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile.
An official of the US States Department after this meeting released a statement in which he said that the Dalai Lama is a globally revered spiritual leader and so the meeting was gratefully received and appreciated.
On July 29, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the meeting of the US Secretary of State with the Dalai Lama representative was interference in China’s internal affairs. Lijian added that the 14th Dalai Lama is by no means just a religious person but rather a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities attempting to split Tibet from China.
China saw this meeting as a violation of the US commitment to acknowledge Tibet as part of China and meddling in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Tibetan affairs.
India and China had a serious standoff in the past and the border situation was eased after several meetings of military officials and May-June 2020 were the hottest months for Chinese and Indian armies at otherwise frozen Pangong Tso Lake. The Indian Army confirmed 20 Indian soldiers and one Colonel were killed in the “violent face-off” with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley on June 16. After this grave incident and the highest casualties at the Indo-Sino border after the 1962 war, the Indian and Chinese field commenders held an important meeting and decided to seize patrolling at Pangong Tso Lake in disputed areas between India and China in Ladakh.
India and China have a dispute over high Himalayan landmass and in October 1962 Indo-Sino war ended with marking the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between them. While Tibet is a Chinese region but 14th Dalai Lama has a claim on this land and runs the government in exile from India. Therefore, Tibet is a very sensitive issue for China.
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a theoretical demarcation line that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.
There is a valid question in the minds of foreign affairs experts that why did India and the US touch this sensitive issue while India in the recent past tried to normalize relations with China and ease down border disputes? Foreign Affairs experts see this latest meeting in reference to two important developments that took place in the recent past.
On November 22, 2020, Lobsang Sangay, the former head of the Tibetan government in exile, was invited to the White House and it was the first such visit of any head of Tibetan exile government to the White House in the last six decades. The Chinese reaction was high pitched but the situation did not stop and on December 21, 2020, the Tibetan Policy and Support bill was approved by the U.S. Congress and on December 27, 2020, the bill was signed into law.
The Tibetan Policy and Support Act is now an official United States policy that the succession of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including the succession of the Dalai Lama, be left solely to Tibetan Buddhists to decide, without interference from the Chinese government. Chinese officials that interfere in the process of selecting Tibetan Buddhist leaders would be subject to sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, including denial of entry into the United States.
These US moves indicate that the United States has set the stage to revive the Tibet issue internationally to put pressure on China under this new China policy for curtailing Chinese growth and political influence at the global level. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that China believes a global opportunity to come out from poverty for developing countries is seen as a Chinese political move by the US and its allies. One should remember that in his first speech, US President Biden was of the view that the Middle East or no other issue is as critical as China for the United States.
Foreign Affairs experts believe that situation will leave “No Grey Area” for India and being a strategic partner, New Delhi will have to stand against China on the directions of the United States that has already pitched India militarily against China under Quadrilateral Security Dialogue –QSD, also known as the Quad). India says it is not a military alliance while Beijing calls Quad an ‘Indo-Pacific Nato’.
Foreign Affairs experts are of the view that the US will place the Tibet issue at a higher global scene and India will have to stand with the United States although Indian’s stakes are very high in reference to the bordering situation.
New Delhi should understand “there is no such thing as a free lunch” and Indo-US Strategic Partnership is a package that India has to accept.
Note: The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She heads the DND Thought Center. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email: email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.