Outcome of the Recent Sino-Indian Summit 

M.L. Sondhi

Tibetan Review, February 1992

The outcome of the Li Peng-Narasimha Rao summit is a warning that the concepts directing Indian policy towards China require drastic change.  Our main objective should have been to secure Chinese understanding of matters relating to Indian national security. The Ministry of External Affairs went wrong on both the perception of Chinese attitudes and in its judgement of China’s sensitivity on Indo-Pakistan issues.  The chain of errors started with India’s failure to challenge the Chinese interpretation of the Sino-Indian conflict, which the Chinese insisted was the result of Western imperialism, and not due to the bad faith of the Mao-Chou regime.  One of the unfortunate features of the negotiations has been that semantic gobbledygook was used to cover up the enormous military presence of China in Tibet.  The Chinese did not show any genuine spirit of give-and-take.  There is simply no way in which India can ignore the strategic location of Tibet as the heart of Asia, and as long as it remains the location of bombers and missiles targeted at our country, there can be no real agreement between the two biggest countries of Asia.  The Dalai Lama’s five-point proposal provides a fresh starting point, and India should have had no hesitation in recommending it to the Chinese.

The joint communiqué fails to reflect India’s interests and it is clear that Mr. Li Peng has put us on the wrong track by a gross oversimplification of the strategic issues between the two countries.  We should take a look at the Chinese negotiations with the Russians.  Peking insisted on several preconditions and one of these was the demilitarization of Mongolia.  What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.  Tibet is central to the Sino-India conflict, and the Chinese have not made a single good faith gesture to India on this score.  Instead, they are continuing hostility and repression against Tibetans and have also demanded that India emulate their example in suppressing the freedom struggle of the Tibetan exiles.  Mr. Narsimha Rao has paid an enormous price for getting the Chinese to agree to and sanctify the joint communiqué.  He has placed India on the diplomatic defensive and allowed the Chinese to promote both their political and military objectives.  The military mobilization of the Chinese in Tibet will continue unimpeded and will entail increasing use of the Chinese armed forces for different contingencies.  It is not realistic to expect the Chinese to work for any real disarmament or confidence building.  The Indian side did not show any seriousness of purpose in the area of human rights.  They missed the opportunity to tell the Chinese that human rights in Tibet and democratic standards in China are interlinked.  There was no frank discussion of outstanding differences and in particular India failed to demand clearly of the Chinese that they abandon their support to Pakistan-based terrorism against India.

The national reputation of India and the credibility of our foreign policy have been sacrificed to political expediency and appeasement.  The summit has been an unmitigated disaster for India and has shown up Mr. Narsimha Rao and Mr. Madhav Singh Solanki as having not learnt from the negotiating history between India and China before the 1962 fiasco.

Although it is worrisome and regrettable that the Indian negotiators played their role in such a hamhanded manner, it is necessary to remind the nation that today India’s international position is stronger than that of China.  We should draw the correct lesson from the summit fiasco.  There is no quick panacea for India’s problems with China.  India has no choice but to pave the way to coexistence and genuine normalization with China by ensuring the demilitarization of Tibet.  What is happening in Tibet is a reflection of the emerging situation in the rest of the communist world, and the Chinese have no choice but to eventually accept the will and choice of the Tibetan people.  Their attempt during the Sino-Indian summit to isolate the Tibetan community-in-exile from political action will only end in failure.  The police repression during Mr. Li Peng’s visit has only strengthened Tibetan identity and deepened their consciousness of the freedom struggle.  It has also helped to strengthen the bonds between Indians and Tibetans.  The foremost priority is now to bring together Indians across the political spectrum in order to project effectively free Tibet’s message to the outside world.

The people of India have confidence in the future of Tibet and have faith in the goals for which His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community-in-exile have been striving.  Mr. Li Peng’s visit has strengthened our resolve to build a national consensus for the decolonization of Tibet.  It is in India’s interest to create a new atmosphere of genuine peace with China – not a “cold peace” which condones genocide and militarization of Tibet. 

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