|#719||1232||November 19, 2011||By Amarjit Singh|
It’s been more than fifty years that China has flaunted world sentiments on its occupation of Tibet. With its nouveau rich economy and political mindset, it does not hesitate to bully its neighbours. On the immediate face of it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to put the Chinese genie back into the bottle.
India has been unable to rebound psychologically from the apparent humiliation in 1962 at the hands of China, though this author believes that China largely ran back over the Himalayas with its tails between its legs in the November of 1962, absolutely petrified of the consequences at the hands of a regrouped Indian army and eventual use of the air force by India.
All China’s neighbours – not to mention USA and the West – are itching to pull the rug from under China’s feet. Therefore, some catalyst or initial force is needed to make that happen, and derecognition of China’s sovereignty over Tibet is a significant step in bottling the dragon and making China recognise reality.
Apparently, India suffers from psychological deprivation with respect to China. Time and again, India cows down to China, considering that China has more than six times sought confirmation from India that it recognises Tibet as part of China. The psychological deprivation adversely affects every aspect of India’s industrial and economic thinking capability. And time and again considering itself to be second best to China becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Working from a sense of humiliation prevents India from strategising effectively or taking effective decisions that ensure its mental health. In contrast, Vietnam is a country one-twelfth the size of India, and a military that is arguably one-sixth India’s. Yet, Vietnam puts China in its right place on a daily basis, psychologically reliant that it has defeated China many times in its history, most recently in 1979. The result is that Vietnam is growing economically at a distinctive rate, and commanding respect around the world for its strong principles and safe destination as an investment center.
Moreover, India needs a severe psychological boost to believe they can do it, and that they are second to none in any venture. When David faced Goliath, the Jews were unstoppable afterwards. And hence, India still has one stone, i.e., Tibet, in its sling that can ring home and call the beginning of the end of China’s hegemony and bully practices around its borders.
This writer believes that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) would like to derecognise Tibet as part of China, but MEA wants to be assured that the dragon won’t maul the tiger. A catch-22 has apparently tied India’s hands: while South Block must proclaim insufficiency to get meaningful military investment from its political masters, this is read as military impotency at the North Block. Hence, the tiger refrains from raising its head, let alone even roaring once in a while, while the dragon rules the roost. India’s left hand doesn’t quite understand it’s right.
We must also realise that, after all, there is no Indian border dispute with China, because 97% of India’s border is with Tibet. Once Tibet is derecognised as part of China, there is little to no need to continue talking of reconciliation on the border.
There are downsides to kowtowing to the Chinese, since it can become a habit that is not easily discarded. This can become another self-fulfilling prophecy that can make India eventually capitulate to China in the future, a scenario that has been considered possible by strategists. Nothing can be worse for India’s health than to have foreign rulers once again return to India. Moreover, once India loses its integrity, it loses its self-respect, which makes it lose its self-confidence. To maintain moral integrity, India must denounce Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Merely proclaiming “diplomatic reasons” for accepting Chinese hegemony in China is quite equivalent to submitting to China. A life without honor is never valuable.
However, the military prowess that North Block needs evidence of cannot be one that is capable of conquering China. On the other hand, all that North Block needs to be content with is for South Block to blunt and dissipate a Chinese attack. For this task, India’s military is immensely capable. Whereas, an attacker needs a 3:1 or thereabouts supremacy level to prevail over a defender, India is definitely more than equal to the task on this account to blunt a conventional attack. Moreover, India’s air force still has technological superiority over China, and thank goodness the West does not sell sophisticated armaments to China. Furthermore, a military intrusion by China into India is absolutely impossible in certain terrain with a vigilant Indian army.
Hence, North Block should take it upon itself to bring pride to Indians by rediscovering its self-respect by recommending de-recognition of Tibet as part of China. Recall that the German parliament has condemned China’s occupation of Tibet and more than half the world detests bullying by China. Thus, India can be assured of tacit and explicit international support and should not underestimate itself or its own strength in this regard. The world wants India to act as a rational entity without fear, but India has been found wanting.
Any time is good to assert such a moral right, and those who think that now is not a good time to derecognise China’s grip over Tibet, for diplomatic or economic reasons, are simply burying their head in the sand, and so succumbing to Chinese arm-twisting. After all, it seems unreasonable to imagine that no time could be found in the past fifty years for this. In contrast, the world has China over a barrel on the Tibet issue, and simply needs to play that card, while India needs to take the lead to cork China. India needs to understand that the only language China understands is hardball. Trying to assuage China has and will never work. That is simply the price of being China’s neighbour.
Dr Amarjit Singh is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii, Manoa
Views expressed are personal