Kashmir, Tibet and A Lurking Dragon

After the revocation of J&K’s special constitutional status, from journalists to analysts, everyone turned into hawk-eyed snoopers on how China will play its card.

By Salika Rashid

THE aggressive standoff which mushroomed in the early May of 2020 between the two nuclear powers of South Asia—India and China—acquired much debate and discussion.

This quagmire of confusion has been perpetuated for months inducing- intense melee, skirmishes and a face-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and has brought this contentious subject into the newsroom, among political theorists and policymakers.

The rat-race for power has once again depicted the realistic approach that the states had been adopting. Furthermore, the revanchist agitation started by China to carry its country to the verge of global power in a time when the world is grappling with the pandemic, speaks volumes of what American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama asserted China is “a totalitarian country that wants to exert control not just on its own people but increasingly over its region”.

Evidently, two new folds emerged: first, talks were helmed by military generals instead of diplomats of respective foreign representatives and second, new names appeared in the ‘sensitive list’ which include: Galwan, Pangong Tso and Gogra in Ladakh and Naku La in Sikkim.

What led to the bloodbath is a moot question as petulant China’s relentless pursuit and Himalayan ambition have become the subject of global concern in this multipolar world.

Various pundits, critics and theorists, on both sides, have furnished with their analysis and contradictory opinions. China’s top India watchers such as Lin Minwang and Zhang Jiadong, and Li Hongmei contended that the incident was not an accident, rather the “inevitable” as India geared up for an “unending infrastructure arms race” at the LAC which irked Beijing and it vowed to “teach India a lesson”.

Moreover, India being a “quasi-ally” of the U.S ruffles the feathers of China. Hence, adopting a belligerent attitude, the Chinese hardliners have asserted that it’s imperative to smash the “arms and legs” of allied countries of the US in order to deter its leverage in South Asia and acquire more stability.

While other critics argued the Galwan valley incident as “shortsightedness”, strategically “unwise” and critically viewed China’s step as jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, they argued it will affect Beijing’s interests as the national sentiment in India can plunge in.

According to many, this step won’t favour China because of its policy of ‘harmony with the difference’, that is, not wanting to escalate the differences into disputes and ultimately achieving bargaining position in South Asian geopolitics.

India’s tampering with Article 370 and bifurcation of State into two Union Territories has also acted as a catalyst in triggering China to meddle along the LAC.

After the revocation of J&K’s special constitutional status, from journalists to analysts, everyone turned into hawk-eyed snoopers on how China will play its card. Its rhetoric and quiescence, in the beginning, seemed empty and benign, albeit China called it a reprehensible act.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement that “China is always opposed to India’s inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction”.

India, she added, “continued to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law,” in an apparent reference to Delhi’s move on Article 370.

Many critics contended that this move can act as a buckler for China to shield its action in Xinjiang.

Beijing has entangled itself at various pivotal junctures which include: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, South China Sea, India (Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh) and Tibet.

Tibet has been China’s chink in the armour as it prompted a fraught relationship between the two nuclear armed neighbours. Beijing acting as a helmsman navigated the “water tower of Asia” by incorporating huge landmass, resources and attaining the strategic stance in South Asia.

What’s discernible is the politics of Tibet card which is adroitly played by both the players. After a switch in China’s political regime, it claimed Tibet as its part from 800 years. Later in the 1950s when the political or spiritual leader Dalai Lama took refuge in India, “the traditional cultural bridge” between China and India got shadowed.

The relation between the two shuddered as the Tibet became the bone of contention. And China kept contending that Dalai Lama “under the cloak of religion” is carrying separatist activities against China. Ultimately, Tibetian flew from the region and many acquired permission before settling in India.

Tibetian Muslims who are currently residing in Kashmir call themselves as Kashmiris and Kashmir as their first home. They’ve cocooned themselves in another disputed region - accordingly chosen double fight for existence.

What’s important is to comprehend the existential crisis that the Tibetians had been undergoing from so many decades. The call of resistance echoed from the great peaks but eventually, the symbol began to flicker. Beijing’s hellbent attitude to nibble one region after other depicts its imperialistic tendencies.

Furthermore, the process of Sinicizing Tibetan people illustrates China’s jingoistic propensities navigated only by a force of ‘homogenization. And due to this reason, China’s contemporary position is regarded as a place of “blended soup”.

There’s no denying that China has its strong impressions on the region but India contrariwise rekindles the Tibet issue during the time it finds strained relation with China; later tranquillizes the issue when they exhibit false bonhomie.

The facade of compassion knitted by both countries is sheer subterfuge where people are used as “political tools” in order to nab an end.

Global politics works in a shrewd manner. If China demands India’s acknowledgement of Tibet as its part, India yearns for the other Kashmir- partly ruled by both Pakistan and China. Thus, the pending question of “the people” will keep lingering on without any solution.

It’s imperative for both countries to settle disputes through mindful diplomacy and talks. To reach the middle path, it’s important to consider the ones who’ve suffered from both the ends and in consensus with them, the peace shall prevail.

Hailing from Srinagar, the author is pursuing graduation in Political Science and Economics from Delhi University.

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