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Immanent Crisis over Tibet

Even as Chinese opinion insists that there can be no negotiation with the Tibetan diaspora over the region's political union with China, a fl ashpoint is slowly coming closer. India's festering dispute with China over the border will get more complicated once the issue of Dalai Lama's succession comes up. How well prepared is the Indian establishment to deal with such an eventuality?

The recent blip in United States (US)–China relations that followed President Barack Obama’s namaste to the Dalai Lama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, was the product of a familiar and predictable script. The Chinese embassy protested vociferously; Tibet-followers in the US approved (and wondered why the President could not meet the Dalai Lama in his official capacity); the White House reiterated that this symbolic gesture indicated no change in the current US policy of recognising the Tibetan Autonomous Region as an inalienable territory of the People’s Republic. The familiarity of this routine had the effect of making us forget the high stakes involved, at least until the events of two weeks ago.

At the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC) reacted furiously to the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that he may choose not to be reincarnated. The New York Times reports a CPC official saying—with no trace of irony detectable—“the Dalai Lama has taken a frivolous and disrespectful attitude…towards his own succession,” that is, reincarnation. The official went on to note, “decision making power over reincarnation… resides in the central government of China.” Such is the power of an officially atheistic state. The farcical nature of this exchange aside, these events, taken together, remind us why Tibet continues to play an important role in shaping contemporary geopolitics; in particular, how it will shape the future of the vexed relationship between China and India.

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