India’s Tibet ambiguity

One of the iron laws of Sino-Indian relations is beginning to assert itself again. When there is relative tranquility in Tibet, India and China have reasonably good relations. When Sino-Tibetan tensions rise, India's relationship with China heads south. The current restiveness in Tibet and the collapse of the talks between the exiled Tibetan leadership and Beijing are likely to squeeze New Delhi harder in the coming months.

At a recent conclave of Tibetans from around the world in Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama has once again characterised India's policy as "excessively cautious". Normally not the one to point a finger at his hosts, the Dalai Lama, is imploring a more engaged policy from India on Tibet.Meanwhile the Chinese officials continually remind New Delhi about its promise not to allow Tibetans to conduct anti-China activities in India.  New Delhi, of course, says the Dalai Lama is a revered spiritual leader who does not indulge in political activities on Indian soil.

The South Block could walk this fine line over the last two decades, because the Dalai Lama adopted the "Middle Path" and called for "autonomy" rather than independence. Although it should be relieved that the Dalai Lama reaffirmed his commitment to the "Middle Path" at the recent conclave of Tibetan activists in Dharamshala, New Delhi is aware that Tibetan moderation might have run its course. As Tibetans get frustrated at the lack of progress in the talks with Beijing, they might soon have no choice but embark on more vigorous forms of protest against China.

As India gets caught in this crossfire, its domestic political divisions on Tibet are also likely to get sharper. "Doing nothing" on Tibet may no longer be a policy option for New Delhi.

Britain's suzerainty

Among the few external players linked to Tibet, other than India, Nepal and Bhutan which share a border with it, are Britain and the US. The former because of the Raj legacy and the latter because it is the sole superpower.

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