The way forward for India’s policy on Tibet

Niranjan Jose

Tibet is one of the ‘three Ts’ that modern day China is most sensitive about (the other two are Taiwan and Tiananmen). Chinese authorities have clamped down on Tibetan monasteries by forcefully evicting monks and demolishing monastic residences, most notably, the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sichuan. In Tibet, even a simple act such as possessing the Dalai Lama’s photo is a crime. Anyone found with the Tibetan national flag can be charged with the highest crime of separatism. Tibetan Buddhists, along with the Uyghur Muslims, are one of the most marginalized religious communities in China.

Beijing has discreetly gone about scotching the resistance out of Tibet, populating it with the Han Chinese to a point where the demographics in the region are altered in its favour. According to the Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization (UNPO), there are six million ethnic Tibetans and 7.5 million Chinese in the Tibetan region. Beijing has also poured large amounts of money, and industrial and educational facilities into Tibet, resulting in the erasure of the Tibetan way of life and production.

Over the centuries, Tibet's linguistically, ethnically, and culturally distinct territory had flourished under the suzerainty of Chinese emperors. Tibet was first incorporated into China as a protectorate in 1903 during the Qing dynasty. After the fall of the dynasty, the Dalai Lama expelled all Chinese nationals from Tibet and enjoyed a period of de facto independence. This all ended with an invasion led by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950 after rounds of fruitless negotiations. 

In 1951, the Dalai Lama signed the Seventeen-Point Agreement, the first formal document that acknowledges China’s sovereignty over Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s authority, which was also meant to signal the start of a peaceful coexistence. However, heavy-handed Chinese rule led to multiple revolts across Tibet in the 1950s, eventually culminating in a large-scale uprising in Lhasa. In 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape to India due to Chinese threat of execution. 

Indo-Tibetan Relations

Former Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru offered to provide Tibetan refugees with full support to settle in India until their return. In the northern Indian district of Dharamshala, Nehru set up a