The accepted axiom in the past was that a nation's foreign policy reflected its domestic compulsions. With globalization that axiom can be stood on its head. Today international pressures influence domestic policies. The symbiotic relationship between international and national approaches by governments makes consistency on policy all the more imperative.
Seizing this, CPI-M and other voices have lumped the Tibetan crisis with the Kashmir dispute. The Left and others who seek to justify China's attitude to Tibet in this manner are horribly flawed, and inconsistent. If the Left seeks to make China's Tibet policy analogous to Kashmir, would it justify an attempt by the Indian government to change the demographic identity of the Kashmir Valley by populating it with Hindus from non-JK plains?
This is precisely what China is doing in Tibet through its government-engineered influx of Hans into Tibet.
There is an even bigger flaw in the popular assessment of the Tibetan issue. It is being treated as a human rights issue. Mealy mouthed governments the world over, keen to protect their economic interests flowing from China, may do so. It does not behoove political analysts to do this.
Neither Tibet nor Kashmir is primarily a human rights crisis. There are human rights violations the world over, including in other parts of India, which do not attract global attention in the same way as Tibet and Kashmir do. Both Tibet and Kashmir are crises arising from disputes about their status. There are demands backed by history that Tibet should be independent. The Chinese dispute that. That is why there is talk of a compromise solution through the creation of an autonomous Tibet to be part of China. The Kashmir crisis also is based upon a dispute about its status. Unlike Tibet, which is a dispute between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people, the Kashmir dispute involves the people of Kashmir and two sovereign nations, India and Pakistan. This dispute too is rooted in history.
Obviously, a consistent approach demands that solutions to end the Tibet and Kashmir disputes should be grounded in the same principles. It is futile to even expect this from the Indian Left which is pathetically inconsistent and subservient to China ' whether in relation to Tibet, to human rights, to labor laws or to foreign direct investment. But others who express opinions on Tibet are no less inconsistent. Are they ready to apply common principles to the disputes on both Tibet and Kashmir? That can be done only if there is clear commitment to principles upon which the emerging world order should be based.
This writer has no problem on that score. The solution he has been advocating for Kashmir for many years is the one that should be applicable to the Tibetan crisis for resolving it peacefully. For the world order to be just, it must be democratic and federal. In the long transitional period expected to precede the establishment of a united world order, groupings of nations based upon cultural commonality must emerge. Both Hindus and Hans are among the few providers of source cultures in the world. China and its minority regions form one cultural grouping. India and its SAARC partners ' Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka ' form another. It has been this scribe's consistent opinion that the Kashmir issue can be amicably and satisfactorily settled only in the context of a South Asian Union that includes India, Pakistan and Kashmir, has common defence and a common market, with free movement of labor and capital in the Union. Such arrangements of nation states grouping together will inevitably dilute sovereignty and make democracy that much more relevant.
It was suggested that all five segments of undivided Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination that allows each segment to join India, Pakistan or opt for independence, with the precondition that Kashmir, whatever its future status, would be part of the proposed South Asian Union. Significantly, very recently Pakistan's Ambassador to India, Shahid Mallik, asked the US to stop meddling in Indo-Pakistan affairs because both nations were capable of resolving issues without third party intervention. LK Advani has stated that the Kashmir dispute can be settled in the context of a confederation of sovereign India and sovereign Pakistan. Advani thinks this could happen after some decades. One ventures to differ. Any calibrated approach to achieve this will fail. Those opposed to the idea will always use terrorism to derail the project. If it is to happen, it must be accepted in principle quickly and without much ado. The opponents of Indo-Pakistan peace must be pre-empted.
The same principles need to be applied for a settlement of the Tibetan dispute. For that, China must move towards democracy. It need not follow either the Westminster or US model. But its system must be based on freedom of expression, right to information, human rights, the rule of law, and state policies based on the majority view of its citizens, expressed freely. China then could move towards setting up a similar confederation which would comprise its minority regions, and include Tibet. In the event, it would matter little if Tibet were sovereign or autonomous. China's security interests would be protected by the common defence and common market flowing from the proposed confederation. As a first step, let Beijing open a meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
This should open the way to confederal unions in South and East Asia, in step with real globalization ' which seems increasingly urgent as technology and other developments make the world increasingly small.