New Delhi, Mar 22 : The Government of China was upset when Dr Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh earlier this year and announced projects worth over 100 billion rupees for development of what he stated was 'Our Land of the Rising Sun".
When Chinese diplomatic sources expressed displeasure at the Prime Minister's statement, India's Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, replied that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, and the Prime Minister did nothing that was not warranted in announcing schemes for the development of the region. The tone of Mukherjee's statement indicated to China that today's India is different from the India of the sixties. India is conscious of the errors made by it in the fifties and sixties, but is unlikely to compound them now. The crackdown on the Tibetans in Lhasa should make us wary of the consequences. Tibetans are worried that the demographic character of their homeland is being changed.
According to one estimate, there are twice the numbers of Han Chinese in Tibet as compared to Tibetans. The new rail lines and cantonments that are coming up in the area will make it difficult for the Tibetans to retain their culture.
The violence in Tibet has also had its impact in India. The exiled Tibetans in India announced that they would take a march on the 49th anniversary of the first Chinese crackdown in Lhasa in 1959. One of the objectives was to oppose the Olympic Games in Beijing if China does not grant autonomy to Tibet.
The procession was to start from their headquarters at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The Government of India cautioned the Tibetans about the nature of demonstrations. It even detained some demonstrators when they became unruly. In response, the Dalai Lama told his people that he would quit as the head of the movement if there is violence. He has been working for the autonomy of Tibetans as promised by China five decades ago.
The Chinese Premier Wen Ji Biao, has appreciated India's steps, but said the Tibet issue is 'very sensitive in our relations with India' and blamed the 'Dalai clique' for 'masterminding independence activities'. China also warned of a 'life and death struggle with the Dalai clique' if the protests continued with the objective of preventing the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Looking back, when India became independent, Jawaharlal Nehru had dreamt of a world where peace would prevail. He supported China, then a developing country, to establish itself in international fora. The author of 'Glimpses of World History' was of the view that the British colonial rulers made a mistake in having a post in Tibet, supported by a garrison.
India acquiesced in the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, and accepted the Sino-Tibetan Agreement of 1951 that proclaimed Tibet as a part of China. India also agreed to withdraw its garrison from Lhasa.
One of the major initiatives taken by Jawaharlal Nehru after independence was to organize a campaign to project 2,500 years of Buddhism. Nehru was keen to project that the Asian continent had strong cultural links and that the message of the Buddha had traveled from India towards north --to China and to other countries eastwards.
Jawaharlal Nehru felt that an independent China would be friendly towards India.
India also supported China in becoming a member of the Security Council and a member of the Non Aligned Movement. The Nehru Government also accepted the 'suzerainty' of China over Tibet and concluded an agreement that announced 'The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence' in 1954.
Contrary to its assurances, China continued efforts to strengthen its grip over Tibet. Lhasa was taken over by the Chinese forces, and the Dalai Lama was confined to his abode. He had to flee that country and walk to the border into India in 1959.
India, the land where Buddhism was born, welcomed the Dalai Lama and his followers. They were given asylum, but were told to refrain from political activities. The Tibetans found refuge in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, in Karnataka and in pockets in other parts of the country. True to his promise the Dalai Lama has been preaching restraint to Tibetans in India.
But the Chinese have been looking longingly at those parts of India where Buddhism has survived like parts of Ladakh and Sikkim and the North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh). The assurance given to Nehru by Chou-en-lai was that the colonial rulers drew the border and the 'pre-liberation' maps would be corrected.
Jawaharlal Nehru suffered a severe jolt when China attacked India in 1962. He never recovered from that 'betrayal'. After the Indian Army's debacle in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, Nehru rebuilt the Armed Forces of the country, raised new mountain divisions and acquired modern ships and aircraft. It took over two decades for the country to be confident again in facing China. Indira Gandhi made it clear to China that Sikkim was a part of India, and Rajiv Gandhi was able to tell Deng Ziao Ping in the eighties that Indian Army was able to look after Arunachal Pradesh.
There was hope that the long handshake between Deng Hsiao Ping and Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 would start a new chapter in relations between the two countries. The trade between India and China increased, and the 'dialogue' between the two countries on the border question that started in 1989 has been continuing.
However, the tone of exchanges between India and China - at frequent intervals -has made many in India wary of the Chinese. During conflicts with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the Chinese have been on the side of Pakistan. China has been helping Pakistan in its efforts to build nuclear weapons and strategic missiles.
Ever since 1959, India has tried her best to restrain the Tibetans settled in various parts of the country. The Tibetans have built their own institutions in India, and have been living in the hope that it would be possible for them to 'return' to Tibet. .
It would be unreal to expect that China to give up its efforts to fully 'integrate' Tibet, but recent events have demonstrated that the Tibetans will hold onto their culture and insist on the Chinese sticking to their assurance of autonomy. They know that the record of China in sticking to their assurances is not without blemish.
History tells us to be wary of China. Beijing should know that Tibet is the land where sun sets for China. I. Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India.