India needs stronger policy on Tibet, Taiwan in dealing with China: Experts

India must recognise China border as Tibet border, says Tibetan president-in-exile


With the India-China relationship under severe strain, competition is likely to replace cooperation between the two countries as India views China more as a foe and less as a friend. A change in India's position on both Tibet and Taiwan could serve as the way forward for India to exert pressure on China.

Such solutions, rather than just acknowledgements of the shift in geostrategic affairs, were the focus of the webinar organised by the M.L Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs. India’s policy of dealing with China for 70 years had failed, the experts agreed, and the need of the hour was to move beyond ambiguity—whether at the LAC or in policy.

India must find concrete ways to deal with China. One possibility that was discussed was to change India's stand on Tibet. 

“Tibet is a core issue between India and China,’’ said Lobsang Sangay President Central Tibetan Administration. “It was never a border between India and China. It was always a border between India and Tibet."

By referring it as the India China border, India had ceded 2.5 million square kilometres and legitimized Chinese claim, he stressed. “Now in Doklam and Galwan Valley, what are you arguing kilometre here, or two-kilometre…you have already conceded 2. 5 million square kilometres of land. You must take it back; say it is the Indo-Tibet border and it is disputed…You must make Tibet a core issue,” he said.

Taking a stronger stand on Tibet was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda in the first term. Sangay was invited to his swearing-in. But, in Modi's second term, cooperation replaced competition, as Sangay put it.

The Dalai Lama, too, had been used to play a game with China. “It has been talked about awarding the Bharat Ratna to the Dalai Lama,’’ Sangay said. The public sentiment was to give him the award. “The only country that has not given him an award was India. It is a symbolic gesture…If India is to give Bharat Ratna to Dalai Lama, it will be more popular internationally,’’ he said.

While a shift in India’s position on Tibet may require further debate, India could certainly take up the cause in international fora. “What is stopping us raising human rights issues…these are global issues. India has every right to raise them,’’ said former foreign secretary Lalit Man Singh.   

Should India also look at building alliances rather than partnerships?

“We need to look at shaping the security architecture in Asia. We will need to look at alliances. We will need to work with like-minded nations,’’ said former ambassador to Canada Vishnu Prakash. 

Going beyond just alliances, India could also, in the resetting of ties, look at strengthening existing relationships.  “We should discuss an FTA with Taiwan,’’ said Prakash.