'Rethink India's one-China Policy'

India was among the first nations to use this world ‘One China’ and recognise China, along with Burma and Pakistan. India simply stated that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

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NEW DELHI: Amid the prolonged confrontation at the LAC and Chinese belligerence there is an ongoing debate in India to rethink its One China Policy including Tibet.

A group of experts recently held a brainstorming session organised by Udaipur-based NGO Usanas foundation on "Rethinking India's 'One China Policy’: Tragedy of Tibet". The list of speakers included Former Special Secretary, Krishan Varma, Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, Abhijeet Iyer-Mitra Senior Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies and Tibetan Activist and Writer Tenzin Tsundue.

Kondapalli threw light on the historical perspective of the One China Policy of India. He said that the policy was initiated between December 1949 and April 1950. However, it was only related to Taiwan in the initial period, as the Communist Party won the civil war and the Kuomintang was pushed back to Taiwan. India had an embassy in Chongqing in the Republic of China.


“India also had Consul Generals in Lhasa, Xinjiang, and other areas. Within two years, the Communist Party won the war and we had to switch over from diplomatic relations with ROC (Republic of China) to PRC (Peoples Republic of China),” Kondapalli said, adding, “With the advent of the PRC, the Communist party started setting up a different kitchen. All the diplomatic missions and relations were abolished and new relations were established.”

India was among the first nations to use this world ‘One China’ and recognise China, along with Burma and Pakistan. India simply stated that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. “In about four years, we also had the Panchseel Principle and we started to have a nuanced position that Tibet - we began to consider it as China’s part in trade perspective. Every joint statement reiterated that position till the 2010 joint statement. We started deviating a bit from it after staple visas were issued to Kashmiris and Arunachalis,” recalled Kondapalli.

Talking about possible solutions, he suggested three policy options. He first argued that it is also a matter of power when we talk about reciprocity. “We need to learn from South Korea, which is a 50 Billion GDP nation that brought an 18 Trillion+ GDP nation - the USA to Singapore, largely on its own terms. We should start seeking reciprocity from China based on the deliverance of recognising the One India Policy.”
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“Secondly, he said that in conjunction with the Tibetans, Taiwanese, Uighurs, and others, we also need to coordinate activities. Third, many countries have signed One China Policy - around 200 odd countries except for 15 or so. However, none of these got a reciprocal arrangement from China. India has to seek reciprocity with China as well as work together with all those countries.”

Krishan Varma began by highlighting that China has chosen a very critical time of the pandemic to move forward their expansionist agenda. He asked - how do we bring along friendly nations together on this issue? What failed our strategic understanding of China? “I believe personally, that the Chinese were able to lull us in a sense of comfort. They effectively used shrewd and skewed diplomacy. They have taken us away from the main point of confrontation - that is the boundary! Nevertheless, it is time to rephrase the One China Policy”, he said.

China have annexed neighbouring areas and it is not easy to roll back. “Even in the current context, are we going to allow them to run away from what they have done in the South China sea? They have thrown away all the international norms. Are we legitimising everything that China has annexed? Are we saying that it is all China’s property that it has already annexed? Why can’t the civilised nations of the world get together to challenge the nation with uncivilised behaviour. India needs to have a new One Tibet policy, a new Taiwan policy, a new Xinjiang policy, and even a New Mongolia policy,” quipped Varma.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra said that the first issue is the series of blunders that India did in recognising Tibet as a part of China. Second is the internal point of view regarding Tibet. What you will see in Tibet is the kind of an air of terror everywhere. “You can see people with machine guns and security scanning everywhere - who are very good at wiping out the native culture. What is amazing about Tibet is that despite all the brutality, it has continued to preserve its culture.”
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He argued that one just cannot trust a treaty that is signed with China. “You violate the treaty in principle, but not in letter. Treat One China like it treats nuclear non-proliferation. You swear to it and act against it on the ground. They are a cultural responsibility and strategic asset for us.”

Referring to the strategic importance of Tibet, he said, “as we move from a ground centric combat paradigm to an air centric warfare paradigm, Tibet becomes a huge liability for us. These are interception points. We have to adjust a whole set of things. Fighting in Tibet on the ground is a nightmare, and fighting in the air is a dream.”
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Tenzin Tsundue referred to global alliances against China and said that there is an entire alliance of people fighting to get freedom from China including East Turkestan, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Tibet, Manchuria. “Three years ago, we had a conference in Dharamshala where Dolkun Isa - Uighur leader was denied a visa in India. What kind of diplomacy is this?”

He also asked the participants to ponder on the quote of Aurobindo Ghosh, “India can be free and India must be free”. He also quoted Rabindranath Tagore’s quote - “Where the mind is without fear… in to that heaven of freedom..” For Tibetan people, freedom is always a matter of political decision and that will happen at some point of time, inevitably.
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