India needs to change the narrative in the ongoing LAC standoff talks – Part 1

(A Free Tibet Historical Argument Should Auger India to Recalibrate Focus of Future Talks with China. An Out of the Box Suggestion for Future Thrust of the On-Going Talks with China on the Indo-China Standoff Scenario Should Talk Of India-Tibet Border and Not India-China Border)

Historically Tibet has always been an independent State and a Buffer between India and China. Thus India’s Border Is With Tibet (Not China?)
Source: Collection of author’s maps

1. The word has had two views on Tibet’s freedom. One view is that Tibet is a part of China historically. The other view is that Tibet has been a free nation and has always enjoyed sovereignty over the ages. Let us analyse the latter argument to precipitate facts this way or the other. This will enable nations (including Europe and even the USA) to take a righteous stand at the world forum at the United Nations. In addition, the Chinese recent failed military aggression on the LAC creates a diplomatic window for India to change and renegotiate the border posturing to de novo alignments, in the period before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949/1950. This fact, therefore, should also help India to go back to the pre-1962 position for all future border negotiations, which strictly should be done only, whenever Tibet becomes independent.

2.In actuality, there is a strong case for Tibet’s freedom. The border problem, therefore, is actually between India and Tibet. Therefore, the perceived delineation of the border is notional that between India and Tibet and not China. India’s earlier acceptance of Tibet being under China’s jurisdiction needs to be revisited in the on-going border talks. This factor can now be revised without the earlier supposition of annoying a big neighbour. Because, now with China’s 2020 first mover aggression on the perceived LAC, automatically brings the Sino-Indian relations back to the drawing board and back to the pre-1962 period. As has been seen PLA is not capable of dislodging India as of today. The Chinese orchestration of encroachment and seizing unheld disputed areas by guile should now bring the onus on China of the strained relations between the two countries. To China’s embarrassment, Indian defence has already blunted Phase 1 of a PLA offensive aimed at consolidation, forward posturing, and establishing a Firm base for launching Phase 2/3, all aimed for the capture of Ladakh and other areas towards Bangladesh. Therefore, there is nothing to fear or negotiate with China anymore. They cannot over-reach again. In addition, the Indian military’s deficiencies are fast being replenished to make them yet stronger. Further, with the wheel of time and Biden having declared his Indo-Pacific strategy, has catapulted India into an indispensable partner with the ‘US’. Beyond doubt, the evolving India-US Partnership and the fructification of the virtual QUAD meeting have in actuality turned the combat ratios in India’s overwhelming favour. These, turn of events and initiatives by many other European countries in the Indo-Pacific theatre has therefore further strengthened India’s negotiating position with China. A simple geopolitical and geostrategic historical analyses place India’s current strength as impregnable. In fact, realistically, India has never been in a stronger position vis-à-vis China since after its birth till date. So, does that lead to a simple deduction of ticking China on Tibet? What is necessary is to teach China the lessons of history on Tibet and that it has been a free country most of the time. The legal position, which should emanate is that China has captured Tibet by guile and force.

3.After all, any negotiations with China is with the occupier of Tibet, which in any case needs to be vacated. Therefore, the future direction of talks has to be recalibrated accordingly. For example, during the Korean War in the 1950s, the American troops were fighting in now South Korea. But after the war ended, the US and other allied troops withdrew. Accordingly, as of today both North and South Korea negotiate and not the US and China. With this logic, in the existing Indo-China scenario, there is no historical standing and legal laws to make China discuss the border issues with India, but instead, it should be Tibet and India, who have to decide. This is only possible if Tibet gets vacated.

4.Let us consolidate the above-mentioned status of the occupied territory of Tibet by China. To begin with, let us articulate a factual matrix bringing out historical dates of both categories when it remained free and when was it under Chinese suzerainty. Checking history, one comes to decide the base year for this statistical exercise in ascending order as being approximately in the period just before “Before Christ” (BC) from ‘Now’. This spans a period of about 2000 years from now. Details with dates are listed below:

(a) 100 BC Period-Tibet’s Imperial Age. Not contested even by Chinese writers.  Mutually strong treaties with China exist. Indicates the free status of Tibet.

(b) 820-629 A.D. – All the Tibetan tribes were united and the first Tibetan Kingdom was formed.

(c)  620 – 649 A.D. -King Sontsen Gambo expanded and created an Empire. He married the daughter of the Emperor of Tang of China who introduced Buddhism to the Tibetan nobility.

(d)  747 A.D. -Indian Buddhist monk named Padmasambhava reached Tibet to teach Buddhism.

(e) ca. 763-Tibetan armies seize the Chinese capital at Chang’an. During this time they appreciated Tibetan power and paid tribute to Tibet.

(f) 822-A.D. The peace treaty with Tang China marks the high point of the Tibetan empire’s power.

(g) ca. 950-There is a resurgence of Buddhism in central Tibet. The Tibetans travelled to India and Nepal in search of written texts and teachings.

(h)1209 – 1211 -Northern provinces of Tibet ceded to the Mongol Empire of Genghiz Khan

(i) 1271 – 1368 –Mongolia’s Kublai Khan succeeded Godan (his brother and son of Genghiz Khan) and proclaimed himself the emperor of Great Yuan (China and Mongolia).  Buddhism was made the state the religion of his empire. Tibet recognized Mongolia’s suzerainty. After the death of Kublai Khan (1294) Tibet yet remained under the suzerainty of the Yuan Dynasty.

(j) 13th Century onwards. S the Mongol and Manchu emperors exercised influence over Tibet in this period.  To justify that since the Chinese were also under the control of the Moguls/Manchus and therefore Tibet was not independent and that China had its control of Tibet is absurd and an untenable argument. This period of 700 years was the only period of some sort of foreign domination.

(k) 1368-1644 A.D. -The Ming Dynasty, which ruled China from 1368 to 1644, had few ties with Tibet but enjoyed no authority over them.

(l) 1587 – China (Emperor Ming  Shenzong) recognized Dalai Lama is the sole ruler of Tibet.

(m) 1720 – 1724 -Eastern and north-eastern territories (now Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan) ceded to the Manchu (Ch’ing) Empire. Tibet recognized the Manchu protectorate. Dalai Lama remained the ruler, while the Manchu appointed executives (Ambans) to run the government.

(n) Tibet got its freedom from the Yuan emperor before China regained its independence from the Mongols. Thereafter, the establishment of the native Ming Dynasty began.

(o) 17TH Century-Ming dynasty ruled China. Adopted Buddhism from Tibet and maintained only close ties with Tibet.

(p) 18th century onwards Manchu empire ruled China and had influence over Tibet but never ruled over it.

(q) 1904-British briefly invaded Tibet.  It was not under any Chinese rule.

(r) 1912 -After the Manchu Dynasty was overthrown and Chinese troops and officials were expelled, Tibet again got its full freedom.

(s) 1914 -At a conference in Simla, representatives of Britain, China and Tibet reached a tentative agreement regulating mutual relations and boundaries of “Inner” and “Outer” Tibet.

(t) 1920 – 1932 -Permanent border clashes with Chinese troops. British influence remained strong.

(u) 1911-1950. it remained an independent state. The XIII Dalai Lama proclaimed its independent status and carried out its own foreign policy.

(v) 1939-1947.Tibet did not participate in the second world war in spite of being pressurised by China and other allies like Great Britain etc.(Whereas India was not independent and participated in the Second World War).

(w) 1949-China occupied Tibet after defeating their small army.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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